Beagle Bay (Ngariun Burr) is one of three Aboriginal communities on the western side of the Dampier Peninsula, north of Broome in the Kimberley region of Western Australia. A French Trappist mission in 1890, Beagle Bay was taken on by the German Pallottines in 1901, and in 1918 the Beagle Bay Sacred Heart Church was built by hand by the monks and local Aboriginal people.
This heritage-listed church is one of the most beautiful in Australia with its most prominent feature being a stunning mother-of-pearl shell altar, along with shells adorning the walls and floor. Beagle Bay Church gained celebrity status after featuring in the ground-breaking Indigenous musical Bran Nue Dae which later became a movie. Beagle Bay Church is a dazzling tribute to its makers.
Welcome to an unforgettable journey to Broome, Western Australia's hidden gem. Immerse yourself in the beauty and excitement of this unique destination. Explore the Buccaneer Archipelago on a thrilling seaplane flight to Talbot Bay, where you'll witness the awe-inspiring Horizontal Falls up close. Dive into the world of pearls with a guided tour of the Willie Creek Pearl Farm, including a scenic cruise. Experience the magic of a sunset camel ride along Cable Beach and uncover the secrets of the ancient world with a visit to 120 million-year-old dinosaur footprints. Cruise the pristine waters of Talbot Bay and admire the architectural wonder of Beagle Bay Church. Journey to the tip of the Dampier Peninsula, explore Cygnet Bay Pearl Farm, and be captivated by the marine wonders at One Arm Point Trochus Hatchery and Aquarium. With expert guidance and a memorable culinary journey included, this is your ticket to an unforgettable Broome adventure. Join us and create memories that will last a lifetime!
The gleaming white exterior of Beagle Bay Church gives no hint as to the treasures inside.
In 1890, French Trappist monks founded a Catholic mission at Beagle Bay and built a church, monastery, and dormitories but had little success running the mission. The German Pallottine Brothers took over in 1901 and six years later, Sisters of St John of God arrived from Ireland to assist and began running a mission school.
When WW1 broke out, it was decided a more permanent church needed to be built as previous ones had been destroyed by bushfires, cyclones, and white ants. Aboriginals collected timber and shells, made tens of thousands of bricks, and burned down the shells to produce lime used in the mortar and plaster.
The Beagle Bay Mission became home to many Aboriginal children from Broome and the Kimberley region who were educated and prepared for employment. Many of the children lost all contact with their parents and became part of the Stolen Generation.
In 1976, the Beagle Bay Aboriginal Community was issued with a 99-year lease on 600,000 acres of land surrounding the Mission which is now administered by some of those Stolen Children. The church is still run by the monks as a place for worship, social gatherings and community events.
Visit the historically significant and breathtakingly beautiful Beagle Bay Church on a tour through the Kimberley.
The remote community of Beagle Bay is known by its traditional owners, the Nyul Nyul as Ngarlun Burr meaning ‘surrounded by springs.’ The name ‘Beagle Bay’ was given in 1838 by John Clements Wickham after HMS Beagle, the survey ship he was captaining.
Beagle Bay Church is also known as Sacred Heart Church, the Mission Church, and most commonly, the Mother-of-Pearl Church, due to its distinctive architecture and use of mother-of-pearl shell in its decoration.
Once the Beagle Bay Mission Church was completed in 1917, a group of Aboriginal women worked under the guidance of a German priest to decorate the interior. Using mother-of-pearl, cowrie, volute, and olive snail shells, they wove into an intricate mosaic of both Christian and Aboriginal symbols to create a unique work of art and the famous mother-of-pearl altar. The church was dedicated in 1918.
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