New Norcia, Western Australia

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New Norcia
Western Australia
New Norcia Benedictine Monastery.jpg
New Norcia Benedictine Monastery
New Norcia is located in Western Australia
New Norcia
New Norcia
Coordinates 30°57′10.8″S 116°11′27.6″E / 30.953000°S 116.191000°E / -30.953000; 116.191000Coordinates: 30°57′10.8″S 116°11′27.6″E / 30.953000°S 116.191000°E / -30.953000; 116.191000
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 ˈnɔːrsiə/ 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][2]


On 1 March 1846, a Benedictine mission to the local native Aboriginals was started about 8 km (5 mi) 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-cha", New Norcia is pronounced "new nor-sia".


New Norcia Hotel

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.[3][4]

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.[5]

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.[6] Also maintaining olive oil production and locally made wines; port and ale can be purchased at the community or from special outlets.[7]

New Norcia Hotel[edit]

Originally known as the New Norcia Hostel,[8] the New Norcia Hotel is an operating business in the community.[9][10]


The abbey was founded by a Spanish Benedictine, Rudesindus Salvado, on 1 March 1846. After three years spent among the local aboriginal people, Salvado came to the conclusion that they could be converted to Christianity. Salvado was appointed the first abbot of New Norcia on 12 March 1867. Following his death on 29 December 1900, Father Fulgentius Torres OSB was elected abbot in 1902.

There are 11 monks living in the monastery, ranging in age from 40 to 95. They pray together seven times a day.



  • 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[12]
  • Anselm Catalan, 1915–1951 (resigned),[13] died 29 July 1959, aged 80 years
  • Gregory Gomez,[14] 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[15]
  • 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.

Abbey buildings and pipe organs[edit]

The abbey buildings are on the eastern side of the current highway alignment through the town.

There are two pipe organs located within the abbey buildings. In the Abbey Church of the Holy Trinity is a large German organ, built in 1922 by Albert Möser of Munich, with 34 speaking stops. The organ was designed in consultation with the abbey organist, Dom Stephen Moreno.[16]

The second pipe organ, of 11 speaking stops and much more modern in style, is located in the oratory chapel. This organ was built in 1983 by Bellsham Pipe Organs.[17]


St Ildephonsus' Boys' School

There have been a range of colleges situated in the town, associated with the Monastery, they are situated on the west side of the current main road alignment which passes through the town.[18]

St Gertrude's[edit]

St Gertrude's was completed in 1908.[19]

St Ildephonsus[edit]

St Ildephonsus' was opened in 1913. It operated until 1964, St Ildephonsus' under the Marist Brothers order.[20][21]

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.

Salvado College – New Norcia Catholic College[edit]

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)[22] 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.

Child sexual abuse[edit]

The colleges had the highest incidence of accusations of child sexual abuse of any Catholic institution in Australia. Of the 53 priests who were at New Norcia between 1950 and 2010, the proportion accused of sexually abusing children was 21.5 per cent. That compares with 7 per cent nationally. The figures were contained in a report released by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in February 2017.[23][24]

During the 1960s, 29 per cent of the clergy at New Norcia had allegedly molested or abused children at some point during their career.[25]

Decade/s  % clergy accused[25] Note
1950s 17.6 per cent
1960s 15.9 per cent
1970s 3.6 per cent
1980s onwards 0 per cent No allegations

There were 65 claims of abuse made about New Norcia, of which 26 were about a single perpetrator. The Catholic Church paid victims $869,000 in compensation.[26][27]

In 2016, a trial in the District Court of Western Australia was told about perverted behaviour by monks at St Benedict's college during the 1960s and 1970s. Brother Dominic "Goofy" Benedict allegedly took indecent photographs of boys and measured one student's penis with a tape measure. Bishop Max Davis, who was acquitted by a jury, said Brother Dom would hit boys or push them up against brick walls.[28]

Current usage[edit]

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.

Grounds and heritage trail[edit]

With decreasing numbers of active colleges, and changes in the organisation of the town, some buildings and sites have been restored and incorporated into a heritage trail within the town. The following buildings are among the heritage buildings situated on the site of the Monastery, which is registered on the Register of the National Estate and classified by the National Trust of Australia WA:[29][30][31]

See also[edit]

European Space Agency – New Norcia Station

Books about New Norcia[edit]


  1. ^ ABC Dimensions - New Norcia and the European Space Agency
  2. ^ Press Release about the European Space Agency information about the New Norcia dish
  3. ^ Smith, John H; Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Western Australia (2008), The story of New Norcia : the Western Australian Benedictine mission (8th ed.), Benedictine Community of New Norcia, ISBN 978-0-646-49721-1 
  4. ^ Monachus; Benedictine Abbey of New Norcia, Western Australia (1946), New Norcia : historical guide to all its institutions, Benedictine Abbey, retrieved 6 June 2012 
  5. ^ Friends of New Norcia
  6. ^ New Norcia bakery
  7. ^ New Norcie products
  8. ^ "NEW NORCIA.". The Sunday Times. Perth. 20 November 1927. p. 20. Retrieved 27 November 2014 – via National Library of Australia. 
  9. ^ Strano, Angelo; Coleman, Kim (1969), The New Norcia Hotel, s.n, retrieved 27 November 2014 
  10. ^ Randall, Warwick (1987), "Great pubs. -The hotel at New Norcia, Western Australia, and the township-", This Australia, 6 (4): 40, retrieved 27 November 2014 
  11. ^ New Norcia Cemetery
  12. ^ "OBITUARY.". Kalgoorlie Miner. WA. 6 October 1914. p. 6. Retrieved 28 November 2014 – via National Library of Australia. 
  13. ^ "LORD ABBOT OF NEW NORCIA TO RETIRE.". The Catholic Weekly. Sydney. 28 June 1951. p. 1. Retrieved 28 November 2014 – via National Library of Australia. 
  14. ^ "NEW LORD ABBOT ELECTED.". The Catholic Weekly. Sydney. 9 August 1951. p. 5. Retrieved 28 November 2014 – via National Library of Australia. 
  15. ^ Obituary of Abbot Placid Spearritt
  16. ^ The Organ Society of Western Australia
  17. ^ The Organ Society of Western Australia
  18. ^ In sources and descriptions of the 1950s the colleges are referred to as 'mission colleges and orphanages'
  19. ^ Byrne, Francis, 1949-; New Norcia Catholic College (1988), 80th anniversary, St. Gertrude's College, New Norcia, 1908-1988, New Norcia Catholic College, retrieved 27 November 2014 
  20. ^ St. Ildephonsus' College (1960), St. Ildephonsus' College, New Norcia, Western Australia : prospectus, St. Ildephonsus' College, retrieved 27 November 2014 
  21. ^ Braniff, Valerian (2009), St. Ildephonsus' College, New Norcia 1913-1964 : an educational, religious and social history ([Rev. ed.] ed.), Schools of Education and Social Enquiry, Murdoch University, retrieved 27 November 2014 
  22. ^ "Native Orphanage for boys.". The Daily News. Perth. 22 July 1924. p. 6. Retrieved 27 November 2014 – via National Library of Australia. 
  23. ^ "New Norcia Benedictine community among worst child sex abuse perpetrators". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 6 February 2017. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  24. ^ Wearne, Phoebe (6 February 2017). "Catholic Church officials admit widespread child sex abuse to Royal Commission". PerthNow. Seven West Media/Australian Associated Press. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  25. ^ a b Tillett, Andrew (7 February 2017). "WA monks some of the worst abusers". The West Australian. Perth: Seven West Media. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  26. ^ Clarke, Tim (17 February 2017). "WA at the evil heart of child abuse". The West Australian. Seven West Media. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  27. ^ "Analysis of claims of child sexual abuse made with respect to Catholic Church institutions in Australia". Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Commonwealth of Australia. February 2017. pp. 133–135. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  28. ^ Clarke, Tim (21 February 2016). "The hidden shame of St Benedict's". The West Australian. Perth: Seven West Media. Retrieved 7 February 2017. 
  29. ^ Livings, Simon (1987), "The New Norcia Heritage Trail. -in Western Australia-", Heritage (Australian Heritage Society), 6 (1): 20–21, ISSN 0155-2716 
  30. ^ Western Australia. Heritage Trails Secretariat (1986), New Norcia Heritage Trail : the development of the Benedictine settlement at New Norcia, Western Australia, Heritage Trails Secretariat, Western Australian Heritage Committee, retrieved 27 November 2014 
  31. ^ Heritage Trails Network (W.A.); Heritage Council of Western Australia (1999), Heritage Trail, New Norcia : the development of the Benedictine settlement at New Norcia, Western Australia, Heritage Council of Western Australia, retrieved 27 November 2014 

External links[edit]