Friday, February 19, 2010

Amazing Grace

One of the magnificent Colleges at New Norcia

In a state as pragmatic as Western Australia which celebrates its heritage mainly in terms of former quarries, logging camps and abandoned mining towns, it’s doubly surprising to come upon a place like New Norcia, a little bit of Spain right there among the gum trees. It seems like a mirage rising out of the reddish - yellow countryside.

This fabulous collection of sixty nine buildings includes two colleges, a convent, several beautiful churches, the monastery and a hotel.

Begun as an aboriginal mission by Benedictine Monks in 1847, it is a remarkable monument not only to the faith of its founders, but also to humanitarian ideals incorporating not only religious beliefs, but practicality, fine architecture, art and education. It is also a poke in the eye to those who believe ‘man is an economic animal dedicated solely to the pursuit of self interest.’

The colleges were dedicated to helping Aboriginal people gain literacy and agricultural skills. The museum has a fine collection of artifacts from these times including an exquisite collection of scientific instruments, paintings and even gifts from the Queen of Spain.



Ballcourts



High ceilings, thick walls and colonades provide relief from the intense inland heat
New Norcia is still a working monastery and a self sufficient farm which produces magnificent bread, olive oil, ales and wine. They also make an excellent pan chocolatti!

The Benedictines were always a hospitable lot. The hostelry serves their own wines and ales, fine bread, olives and cheeses.

For those in pursuit of more spiritual nourishment it is possible to join the monks in prayer at certain times or to go on spiritual retreats. There are also educational activities and guided tours. See their website for more details:
http://newnorcia.wa.edu.au/

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