Australia’s only monastic town, New Norcia is a picturesque spot located 130 kilometres northeast of Western Australia’s capital, Perth. The town was established in 1847 by Spanish Benedictine monk Bishop Rosendo Salvado as a mission for local Aboriginal people. The city was named after the Italian town of Norcia where St Benedict was born. The Italian pronunciation of New Norcia is ‘Norchya’ but Australians prefer ‘Norsia.’
New Norcia is still home to Benedictine monks and the monastery where they live, work, and pray is one of twenty-eight heritage-listed buildings. The town, lined with stunning Spanish-style architecture has served many purposes, from a mission, a monastic town, a retreat, and a place of education to a popular tourist destination. The Benedictine Community operates most businesses in town with several catering to visitors.
On a New Norcia town tour, visitors learn how in 1847, a small group of Spanish Benedictine monks travelled on foot from Perth to establish a mission near the banks of the Moore River.
Walking through town, visitors gain an appreciation of the diverse architecture including Baroque, Gothic revival, Byzantine, Italian and Renaissance styles. Equally as interesting are the less ornate colonial-style buildings, small cottages and farm sheds scattered throughout the town.
A New Norcia tour takes in the two old boarding colleges St Ildephonsus’ and St Gertrude’s with their spectacular chapels embellished by frescoes and pressed metal ceilings, the artwork of two talented monks.
The tomb of New Norcia’s founding monk Rosendo Salvado lies in The Abbey Church. Its walls are adorned with ‘sgraffito,’ a rare form of art, and it’s home to one of only two large Moser organs crafted in Germany and transported to Australia in the 1920s.
For something completely different, the nearby Deep Space Ground station was built by the European Space Agency and features one of the world's largest antennae. In contrast, the Benedictine monks invite visitors to experience a 1,500-year-old tradition by joining one of their six daily prayer sessions in a private chapel in the monastery.
New Norcia experiences a Mediterranean climate characterised by hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters. Summer temperatures (December to February) can reach as high as 35°C (95°F), whereas winter (June to August) is relatively mild, with temperatures ranging from 5°C to 20°C (41°F to 68°F). The town receives most of its rainfall during the winter months, creating a greener landscape and adding to the charm of the historic buildings.
Spring and autumn are popular times to visit, as the weather is mild and pleasant, and the town is adorned with colorful wildflowers in spring and beautiful autumn foliage. These seasons offer an ideal environment for outdoor activities and sightseeing. If you prefer a quieter and more peaceful experience, winter can be a good time to visit, immersing yourself in the town's history and cultural heritage while enjoying a cosy atmosphere.
The New Norcia Museum and Art Gallery is popular among visitors as it gives an intriguing insight into the history of the monastery along with a selection of Aboriginal artefacts. The gallery contains works ranging from traditional European religious pieces to contemporary Australian art.
Visitors can taste some of the delicious hand-crafted New Norcia produce such as freshly baked New Norcia bread, nut cake and biscotti, silver medal-winning olive oil and delicious wines, ales, and ports.
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