Sunday, June 27, 2010

A day in New Norcia

This weekend just been Jason and I decided to head out of town. We headed north east and found ourselves in New Norcia. New Norcia is about a 2 hour drive from Perth and is a little piece of Spain that emerges from the Australian bush. New Norcia is home to the Benedictine Monastery (founded in 1847) and is still home to a community of monks living a simple life of prayer and work within the monastery. The town's motto is Pax, see below:
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, an old mill, a wine press, a hotel, and the monastery itself. Below is some of the architecture found at New you can see we had a beautiful clear day, albeit a little cool for Western Australian standards, we only got to about 17 degrees...from top left going clockwise: the monastery (first two photos), St Ildephonsus (Boys Boarding School), the Abbey Church (*2), St Gertrudes (the girls Boarding School), and the Abbey Church again.
We started the day with a visit to the art gallery and the museum, which is housed in the Old Convent. This is where the nuns lived and looked after the Aboriginal orphans. Unfortunately no photos allowed from this section of the visit. We bought some New Norcia bread (wholemeal and fruit) and some macadamia and almond panforte. We should have bought some of the local olive oil as well. As an aside, the last Spanish Benedictine monk of New Norcia died in January 2010, aged 99. He continued to prepare the bread for the monks and olive oil almost upon his death.

Following this we headed out on a guided tour of the town, firstly visiting the Monastery Chapel and the Abbey Church. The Monks prey 6 times a day as well as holding a daily Mass. The prayer times are: 5.15, 6.45, 12pm, 2.30, 6.30 and 8.15. Following the 8.15 mass the Monks descend into silence until 8.30 am the following day.

The Abbey Church was home to a unique depiction of the stations of the cross (as well as other pictures). These were etched into the stone walls. Check out the purely Australian nativity scene in the bottom left- grass trees, a kangaroo, the stars from the Australian flag and the Aboriginal.
The public is free to walk around the village, but by taking the tour we got to see inside some of the buildings not actually open to walk ins. See below for some of the stunning architecture and beautifully frescoed interiors.
At the end of the tour we wandered up to the New Norcia Hotel for lunch. I had a salad of Honey roasted butternut pumpkin, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and baby spinach leaves drizzled with a honey, mustard and lemon dressing. Jason had a beef burger and fries and also enjoyed some of the Monk's own specially brewed Abbey Ale. A good end to a good day.

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