So today I went for a jaunt up north. I headed up the Great Northern highway to New Norcia. Why? Because another website said it was a good day trip to do from Perth of course. They weren’t too far wrong.
New Norcia is the only monastic town in Australia. Yep, because that is a word – monastic – I’d never have known. I guess it means that the town is made up entirely of the monastery. It was founded in 1846 by a couple of Benedictine monks from Spain, Bishop Rosendo Salvado and Dom Jose Serra. Bishop Salvado looked after the place – ruled it? – for the first 50 years of its existence. Over the years it has been a mission, a farm, and a place of ‘education and culture’. These days there are ten monks living there, a pub, a guesthouse, and occasional school trips. This is the monastery, the guesthouse is on one end.
Reading through the museum stuff it seems like it was founded to create a self-sufficient village for the local Aboriginal folk. There was an interesting story about one group of aboriginal people who came towards them at a meal time. They were all armed, of course, and went further along the river a little ways to have some food. The monks decided they’d make a whole lot of damper and take it over, try to introduce themselves. Of course the women and children went running and the men pulled out their spears. With some miming and putting food close and walking away they eventually managed to give them the food. It was hailed as their first successful encounter with the locals.
I didn’t take a pic of the orphanage, too difficult as it was right next to the road and there wasn’t space across the road…so this (and the header photo) is a pic of St Gertrudes, an ex-boarding school turned event and school camp venue.
The art gallery had some huge paintings. I have to say many of them were scary. In the gallery there was this huge chair. It’s the Abbots Throne from some years ago. When you’re reading about cells for the monks and looking at all the paintings it seems these guys are supposed to be some sort of humble…this doesn’t look particularly humble. Just saying.
The museum / art gallery were the buildings for the separate male and female orphanages for aboriginal kids. Before I left the museum / art gallery I bought what has become my favourite mug. The word ‘Pax’ on it is apparently Latin for peace…I’m at peace with my hands wrapped around it full of Swiss Miss in this chilly winter. Plus its big enough for a satisfying cuppa tea.
I then went for a stroll around the grounds. Nice place. There are all sorts of pretty buildings, many of them built in the late 1800s. This is what the towns was supposed to look like in 1882 with 20 cottages for the natives, a hospital and church etc. The first stone for the missionary building, turned monastery, was laid 1 March 1847 to commemorate a year of being there. This was considered the ‘best possible way of celebrating our arrival in the bush’, I really wonder if the then locals agreed or not.
Finally, lunch. Okay, it was more like a dunch given that it was about 1400, but it was good grub none-the-less. The New Norcia Hotel does a good Cajun chicken burger. The chips were few but the perfect amount for sopping up the juices from the perfectly cooked chicken breast. Yummy! I was enjoying my relaxing outside in the sun with a burger, shiraz, and book until a family with three boisterous kids decided they’d best sit outside. Not best for me. I gave up after about 15 minutes of the mother says ‘shhh dear, stop yelling’.
I headed home via a couple of lovely views of the area. I suspect that the place is stunning now mid-winter when it is about 16 degrees and all green and growing. In summer I’d expect a dust bowl.
So I didn’t realise this hadn’t uploaded…hence the delays. Oops. Its here now! Watch out for the next exploring-before-I-leave-Perth trip this weekend – Busselton! I don’t care how cold it is* I plan on standing in water with dolphins. Okay, I may chicken out…if they take too long to arrive.