New Norcia, Western Australia

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New Norcia
Western Australia
New norcia gnangarra 1.jpg
The Abbey Church, which contains the tomb of Dom Rosendo Salvado.
New Norcia is located in Western Australia
New Norcia
New Norcia
Coordinates 30°57′11″S 116°11′28″E / 30.953°S 116.191°E / -30.953; 116.191Coordinates: 30°57′11″S 116°11′28″E / 30.953°S 116.191°E / -30.953; 116.191
Established 1847
Postcode(s) 6509
  • 132 km (82 mi) N of Perth
  • 56 km (35 mi) SE of Moora
LGA(s) Shire of Victoria Plains
State electorate(s) Moore
Federal Division(s) Durack

New Norcia /ˌnj ˈnɔrsiə/ is a town in Western Australia, 132 km (82 mi) north of Perth, along the Great Northern Highway. It is situated next to the banks of the Moore River, in the Shire of Victoria Plains.

New Norcia is the only monastic town in Australia. A ground station for the European Space Agency is located 8 km south of the town.[1]


On 1 March 1846, a Benedictine mission to the local aborigines was started about 8 km to the north, led by the two Spanish Benedictines, Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra. Within a year the mission was moved to where the town is today, and on 1 March 1847 the foundation stone of the monastery was laid. The place was named New Norcia, after Norcia in Italy, the birthplace of St Benedict. Unlike the Italian Norcia, which is pronounced "nor-chee-a", New Norcia is pronounced "new nor-sia".


The town of New Norcia has buildings in a Spanish style of architecture, along with some other historical sites. Among these are the two old boarding schools, St Ildephonsus' and St Gertrude's (both now used for accommodation and various social functions), the Abbey Church (containing the tomb of Rosendo Salvado), an old mill, a wine press, a hotel, and the monastery itself.

The town has attracted interest and tourist visits for most of its existence, and as a consequence a number of guide books and histories have been produced[2][3]

Tours of the town are operated daily by the Friends of New Norcia, who also organise the accommodation in the various buildings including the monastery retreat.[4] The Benedictine monks continue to occupy the monastery and are involved with most of the enterprises in the town.

The last Spanish Benedictine monk of New Norcia died on 18 January 2010, aged 99. He continued to prepare the bread for the monks and olive oil almost upon his death.[citation needed].

Today New Norcia is increasingly well respected in Australian culinary circles for its quality bakery (built in 1886) offering breads, nutcake and biscotti.[5] Also maintaining olive oil production and locally made wines, port and ale can be purchased at the community or from special outlets.[6]

Ghost stories[edit]

Many have claimed to have seen ghosts in this town. This is said mainly because of its religious nature and the fact the town graveyard is in the middle of the town. Claims of a pale girl seen on the top floor of the St Gertrude's Girls boarding house has been prominent with many sightings reported. Various other sightings of ghosts have emerged which adds to the interesting nature of the town. The figure of a woman (said by some to be a nun) dressed in blue has been seen flying around the clock tower as the bell tolls midnight.

Pipe organs[edit]

There are two pipe organs located within the monastery buildings. In the Abbey Church of the Holy Trinity is a large 35 rank German organ, built in 1922 by Albert Moser of Munich. The organ was designed in consultation with the abbey organist, Dom Moreno.[7]

The second pipe organ, of 13 ranks and much more modern in style, is located in the Oratory Chapel. This organ was built in 1983 by Belsham Pipe Organs.[8]


St Ildephonsus' Boys' School

St Gertrude's was completed in 1908, and St Ildephonsus' was opened in 1913. Until 1964 inclusive, St Ildephonsus' was run by the Marist Brothers. From 1965 onwards, it was run by the Benedictines as St Benedict's College. In 1972, St Benedict's and St Gertrude's became co-educational, with the boys and girls sharing most of their lessons. In 1974, the two colleges became known jointly as Salvado College, but were still referred to individually as St Benedict's and St Gertrude's. In 1986, Salvado College became New Norcia Catholic College, which closed at the end of 1991.

There were also two aboriginal orphanages ; St Mary's (for boys) and St Joseph's (for girls), which closed in the early 1970s. The two buildings still exist. St Mary's is next to St Ildephonsus', and St Joseph's is next to St Gertrude's.

St Joseph's now houses the Museum and Art Gallery, which contains works by Australian and overseas artists, and displays describing the history of the area. In 1986, twenty six paintings were stolen by two robbers. Several weeks later, all but one of the stolen paintings were returned. They were badly damaged, but were eventually repaired.

Blacksmith Workshop



  • Rosendo Salvado, 12 March 1867 - 29 December 1900, died as abbot, aged 86 years
  • Fulgentius Torres, 1902 - 6 October 1914, died as abbot, aged 53 years
  • Anselm Catalan, 1915 - 1951 (resigned), died 29 July 1959, aged 80 years
  • Gregory Gomez, 1951 - 1971 (resigned), died 31 May 1995, aged 91 years
  • Bernard Rooney, 31 March 1974 - 15 June 1980 (resigned)
  • Placid Spearritt, 29 January 1997 - 4 October 2008, died as abbot, aged 75 years[10]
  • John Herbert, 23 January 2009 to present

From 1983 until 1997, the Territorial Abbey had been suppressed into the Archdiocese of Perth and Spearritt worked as an administrator.

See also[edit]

European Space Agency - New Norcia Station


  1. ^ *ABC Dimensions - New Norcia and the European Space Agency
  2. ^ Smith, John H; Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Western Australia (2008), The story of New Norcia : the Western Australian Benedictine mission (8th ed ed.), Benedictine Community of New Norcia, ISBN 978-0-646-49721-1 
  3. ^ Monachus; Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Western Australia (1946), New Norcia : historical guide to all its institutions, Benedictine Abbey, retrieved 6 June 2012 
  4. ^ Friends of New Norcia
  5. ^ New Norcia bakery
  6. ^ New Norcie products
  7. ^ The Organ Society of Western Australia
  8. ^ The Organ Society of Western Australia
  9. ^ New Norcia Cemetery
  10. ^ Obituary of Abbot Placid Spearritt

Sources and External links[edit]