Russ is still doing really well and is not experiencing any problems with mouth, gum or teeth, so he is very happy.
Today, we went back to New Norcia, and yes, it did take a full day to see everything that was on offer. By the time I write up all the information that was captured in photographs I will have an extremely long entry for the day.
We started out of Moora at 9:50am and the temperature was sitting on 20 degrees. We went down the Bindoon Moora Road until we turned southeast at Gillingarra. We went past the turn off for New Norcia (NN) so that we could go to the Lookout first and get a good picture of the valley and how the buildings nestle among the trees.
When we got to NN we stopped first for a toilet break (drinking lots of water will do that to you) and then proceeded to the Museum and Art Gallery car park. Once we entered the building we paid $10 each as a concession price to get into the Museum proper. As per most places you have to transit the gift shop to get in and get out, and there were lots of goodies to look over. We did buy some of the Monastery’s bread on the way out, along with some soap and fruit cake.
There is just so much history surrounding NN and its community. I need to provide a brief background about Benedictines, although I am not sure that I can be brief about anything these days, lol.
The Benedictines are a religious order within the Catholic Church. They are the oldest of existing orders and today they number about 9,100 men and 8,900 women. They are active in most countries in the world.
Unlike Franciscans, Dominicans and Jesuits, whose structures are highly centralised, Benedictines live in communities that are autonomous and only loosely associate with one another.
In Australia there are three Benedictine, monasteries for men and three for women. NN is the only one in WA.
Benedictines seek to live a way of life established in Italy in the sixth century by St Benedict. As a young man he became disillusioned with the world and chose to live as a hermit in a cave in Subiaco, near Rome.
After this period of isolation, he set about developing a regular, disciplined and prayerful way of life for people seeking God in a community. In old age he wrote down his practical arrangements for the living of monastic life as a Rule or guidebook for his followers.
After his death, communities following his Rule sprang up all over Europe. The subsequent history of Benedictine monasticism is marked by many changes. However, the wise, gentle Rule of Benedict survived and is followed today at NN.
In January 1846, two Spanish Benedictine monks, Dom Rosendo Salvado and Dom Jose Benito Serra, arrived in Perth with a large party of Catholic missionaries under Perth’s first Bishop, Bishop John Brady.
The following month, guided by two Aboriginal trackers, the monks set out with their two companions into the bush where they lived a largely nomadic life until March 1847, when they established a permanent camp by the banks of the Moore River, 132 kilometres north of Perth.
At this place, which they named New Norcia after the birthplace of St Benedict, they laid the foundations of a Benedictine Monastery which was to become one of the largest Aborigine missions in Australia.
Dom Salvado aimed to establish his mission as a self-sufficient village community, based on agriculture. To this end, he encouraged the local Noongar people to live on their own country in Mission cottages. Their work involved clearing the land, shearing sheep, cooking, sowing and harvesting crops. Olive groves were established to supply oil for food, religious ceremonies, lighting and medicinal uses.
Salvado travelled to Europe several times recruiting people, as well as funds, artwork, books and new ideas which he brought back to the Mission. On the last of these trips the Bishop became ill and died in Rome on 29 December 1900. Three years later his body was brought back to NN where it was interred in the Abbey Church.
After his death both the function and focus of NN and the Mission shifted to education and the pastoral needs of the area, with the construction of two institutions – St Gertrude’s College (1908) for Girls taught by the Sister of St Joseph, and St Ildephonsus’ College (1913) for Boys alongside St Mary’s and St Joseph’s Orphanages for Aboriginal youth.
During this period Spanish woodcarver, Juan Casellas, was brought over to help Benedictine Father Lesmes Lopez in creating the fine woodwork which can be seen in the buildings to this day. By this time NN ecclesiastical territory had been extended to cover 78,000 square kilometres.
NN is the only monastic town in Australia. The township was designed reflecting the shape of a cross with the Monastery, Abbey Church. The
Statue of Salvado and the Cemetery along the central spine. Many of the buildings reflect Spanish architectural design.
Soon after arriving on the Victoria Palins in 1846, the first monks encountered the local Yued people. These people are the traditional inhabitants of land that stretches from Coorow in the north to Bindoon in the south, and from NN in the east to Yatheroo and Dandaragon in the west.
They are one of fourteen groups that make up the Noongar people. The monks and the Yued people got off to a good start. The Yued people helped the monks with their water needs and the monks shared their food and medical skills.
Salvado was intensely interested in the Yued people, their language, culture and demography, and he became their first recorder of these things.
He later wrote a book (in two parts) called Memorie Storiche dell’ Australia. In it he tells the story of the Mission’s first years of foundation and he describes the Yued people and their cultural practices, as well as the flora and fauna of the Victorian Plains district.
The book was published in Italian in 1851, and again in 1852, then in Spanish in 1853 and French in 1854. Engravings by a Roman artist, and based on the text ion the book, were first included in the Spanish edition.
The book’s popularity raised the profile of NN in Europe, especially among Catholics, and helped to attract financial, spiritual and emotional support for the Mission.
Rosendo Salvado believed that the best way to develop a mission was to found a community of monks. On his trips back to Europe he recruited vigorously and most successfully, especially in Spain. Times were turbulent and missionary work was considered a noble calling.
Unlike other Benedictine communities of the day, the monastic community at NN was overwhelmingly made up of lay brothers. In 1870 there were only five priests among seventy members.
This arrangement suited Salvado perfectly. For a new mission a large group of monk tradesmen provided a cheap, effective and highly motivated workforce. Also, because he valued work as a powerful civilising activity. A large body of monk tradesmen gave him the opportunity to establish a distinctive apprenticeship model of mission.
Under his leadership monastic life was demanding. Some men did not continue in the community, but the great majority stayed at NN for the remainder of their lives.
Wool production was the economic engine that underpinned the development of the NN Mission. Thanks to funds gathered in Europe, his own energy and shrewdness, and the hard work of his monks and the Aboriginal men of the mission, Salvado progressively built up a holding of pastoral leases which, at its height, totalled nearly one million acres and was running approximately 17,000 sheep.
This huge undertaking involved sinking wells, washing and shearing the sheep before baling the wool and transporting it to Perth where Salvado’s agent, George Shenton, sent it on to London for sale.
Salvado was proud to record the contribution of the Aboriginal men in the undertaking. Whereas European shearers could normally shear 25 sheep per day, Aboriginal shearers at NN, who were quicker and did not tie up their sheep to shear them, recorded scores of up to 80 and 100 sheep sheared per day.
In 1886 the statistics for the farm and garden at the home farm of freehold land, independent of pastural leases, were as follows: 150 cattle, 10 acres orchard, 15 acres vineyard producing 2,000 gallons of wine per year, 700 acres cleared, 400 acres cultivated and cropped for 200 acres wheat (10 bushels average), 72 acres barley (15 bushels average), 40 acres hay (1 ton average), and 3,000 bushels in store in the Flour Mill.
The stock also included 250 horses. Some were used on the monastery farm, but the majority were bred for sale to the British Army in India. Also, olive trees for oil were planted and bees for honey were introduced.
In an average year in the 1880s the produce from the farm was sufficient to keep a town community of 250 people. NN was known as the place of “plenty tucker”.
NN under Salvado grew into its most developed form, but below the surface there were considerable difficulties. With the town community of 250 people, he remained in a precarious financial position.
IN the 1880s he reduced the number of his pastoral leases, and in the 1890s he built 45 houses, many of them in Godrich Street in Perth, in an effort to make NN more secure.
ON a societal level, changes were occurring around him which altered the make-up of his mission. With the further dislocation of Aboriginal peoples and deaths among the Yued people, more families from other tribes moved into town.
Also, the number of children in the schools increased significantly. In 1885 there were 81 people living in the Mission cottages, and in 1900, of the 132 children in the schools, mostly had come from other places. At this time Salvado also agreed to accept juvenile defenders.
Over his 54 years at NN, Rosendo Salvado led an extraordinarily busy life. In addition to the day-to-day oversight of the Mission, he had to contend with a series of larger concerns.
In the earlier years of the Mission the population growth put pressure on him to recruit more monks, more fundraising, and to lease more land as well as increasing the income from wool production.
As the colony expanded Salvado became a leading advocate for the better treatment of Indigenous people. He also had to contend with the Midland Railway Company which acquired mush of his land and threatened the economic viability of the Mission.
Business and Church affairs meant he worked long hours and travelled often. As a major landholder of the local district, Salvado was a member of the Victoria Plains Road Board intermittently from its inception in 1871 through to 1899.
He travelled frequently to Perth on business with Government agencies, and he constantly offered hospitality to visitors of all degrees and denominations.
As a Bishop he was also involved in ecclesiastical affairs in both Perth and other parts of Australia. During his 54 years at NN he undertook five trips to Europe for reporting, recruiting and fundraising purposes.
Because of his range of interests and his affable personality he maintained a surprisingly extensive network of connections and friends. In terms of correspondence alone, the Salvado holdings in the NN Archives contain over 20,000 incoming letters.
He was 83 years old when he died in Rome. Typically, he was reporting to Church officials on the state of NN.
The Daily Timetable for the community of NN in 1883 is mind-boggling.
2:45am Wake up. The bell was rung 24 times.
3:00am Matins (vigils, a time for private prayer)
4:45am Meditation (Reflections)
After Mass the beds were made, and work started for the day. The boys helped in the field and the girls were busy with needle and appropriate activities before school.
7:00am Breakfast – a cup of tea and bread, no milk, no butter.
Prime (First hour of daylight) was after breakfast and said in Church
9:00am Terce – but for those far away, or whose work must not be suspended, they were exempt from attendance.
11:15am Sext, prefaced by a spiritual reading and concluded with an examination of conscience.
Noon – Lunch was provided after the Angelus. Throughout the mealtimes readings were given.
After Lunch it was off to Church where the five Psalms were recited. These are set down to honour the Holy Name of Mary.
2:00pm NONE – a fixed time of prayer which consists mainly of Psalms.
Work – until sunset
Vespers – evening prayers at sunset
Dinner consists of a cup of tea with bread. (I sure hope they had something filling to eat at lunchtime.)
Compline – Spiritual reading in the Church
8:00pm Bell rings to signify the end of the day and everyone goes to bed.
Salvado had a vision of an Aboriginal priesthood. When Dom Jose Serra went to Rome in 1848 he took with him a seven-year-old Aboriginal boy, Benedict Upumera, to complete his education in literature, science and art. The following year Aborigine boys, Conaci and Dirimera, asked to accompany Salvado to Rome.
The boys were presented to Pope Pius IX and the King and Queen of the two Sicilies, then went to La Cava dei Tirren for educational tuition. Both boys fell seriously ill in 1853. Conaci died in Rome, Dirimera returned to WA but died with his family present soon after arriving back at NN.
In September 2016 the Francis Xavier Conaci Scholarship for Indigenous Studies was launched at the Vatican Museums in Rome. The scholarship was an initiative of the Australian Catholic University (ACU) and supported by NN and the Australian Embassy to the Holy See, allowing for an annual recipient to complete a summer school at the ACU campus on the Janiculum (University campus) in Rome.
As with his approach to work practices SAlvado did not force Aboriginal people to become Catholic Christians. However, it was encouraged,
baptised married couples had the best chance of securing a cottage and employment at NN.
Typical of the era, the Catholicism that was practised had a strong devotional emphasis on Mary, the Mother of God.
Father Sandos Salvado was the second prior and Vicar General at NN. (I do not know if he was any relation to Rosando Salvado, but the chances are pretty high that he was.)
Several of the exhibitions in the Museum are pieces gifted to Sandos before he came to NN. The Longcase Clock was a gift to him from Queen Isabella II of Spain for NN. The clock was made by John Ellicott of London around 1760.
The Ornate Wall Mirror circa 19th century, was another item. On the paper in the back of the mirror is written – “the property of Sandos Salvado, chaplain to her Majesty Majesty the Queen of Spain, Isabella II, and he gives it to the Mission at NN.”
The Abbey Church building was located in the centre of the town, its physical position indicated the place religion occupied in the town’s life. During Salvado’s time, there was no separate chapel for the monks in the Monastery, and the church was used by the whole community.
NN has enjoyed a rich history of Aboriginal; musicians commencing with the Native Boys’ Choir in the early 1870s. This was followed later by a trained string orchestra of some 26 players, and finally a brass band of 25 performers. These three musical entities continued in full force until Bishop Salvado died in 1900, after which interest petered out.
At the beginning of March 1945, Abbot Catalan appointed Fr Eladio Ros, then the Director of the Aboriginal Boys’ Orphanage, to establish a Brass Band for the approaching centenary of the Mission in 1946.
Barely six months later the fledgling brass band gave a mini concert at the Orphanage. There was great surprise at the rapidity with which the boys had learnt the instruments.
At Christmas time of that year, the band, now consisting of 17 boys, put on a public performance at the Monastery gates for the people of the Mission. All listeners were lavish in their praise.
The centenary celebration took place in 1946 and the boys played on all three days, and along with the singing of the Boys’ Choir, were considered the outstanding features of the celebrations.
Subsequently, the Brass Band became famous outside the Mission and throughout the Victoria Plains, thereby giving great prestige to NN as a musical centre, and to the Aboriginal boys as wonderful players.
The Bras Band continued for a further six years until Fr Ros left the Orphanage, but finally ceased when the boys themselves left the Mission.
During the preparations for the celebration of the bicentenary of the birth of Salvado, the New Norcia Aboriginal Corporation issued a very interesting statement.
They extended their congratulations to the Benedictine Community and then said, “The establishment of the Aborigine Mission at NN had a profound effect on the lives of the local Aboriginal people, the Yued people of the Noongar nation. This coincided with much upheaval for the Noongar people who bore the brunt of the early British colony in WA.
We consider that Bishop Salvado was a friend of the Yued people. Bishop Salvado gained the trust of the Yued people who helped him and his fellow missioneries survive in the bush, and to establish the mission at NN.
Bishop Salvado had a deep interest and respect for Aborigine people in which he recorded the local Noongar language, culture and customs. These records have provided important historical information about Noongar people, including being used to support the Noongar native title claim.
In the spirit of Reconciliation, we look forward to participating in events commemorating Bishop Salvado’s life and his legacy.”
The Old Police Station was built in 1860 as the station, quarters and lock-up for the Town until 1900. It then became a residence for farm employees, including the Thompson family who called it home for forty years, and the Kelly family for thirty years. (It was definitely built for people of small stature.)
The thick stone walls are built in mud mortar, finished inside with mud and straw plaster, and lime washed. The window frames are exposed on the outer face of the walls and surrounded by whitewashed box dressings. The steeply pitched roof was originally covered in timber shingles, which are still under the corrugated iron. The building is still in use as a residence.
The first Flour Mill was built in the 1850s and was operated by horsepower. During its period of operation, the Mill was surrounded by shearing sheds, stables, workshops and storehouses. It is one of the oldest surviving buildings in NN (and I forgot to take a photo of it after getting all that information).
I have lots more to write about the time at New Norcia, but I will stretch it out in coming instalments as otherwise everyone will be brain dead, if you are not already after all that.
It was just such a fascinating place to visit. Further information deals with the history (in brief!!!) after Bishop Salvado, and where the community stands today, along with an amazing insight into the works of Albert Namatjira and his sons and grandchildren. There is an exhibition on their works in the Museum.
I will also touch on the theft of priceless paintings that took place in the Museum in the late 1970s. and also write about the work done in the Girl’s Orphanage.
Whilst I love this sort of history (especially as it is not touched upon in Australian History as taught in schools – even Catholic ones). I will not be offended by anyone who chooses not to read about the visit. In my mind, it is your loss.
After the trip to the Museum, we went back to the carpark and had our lunch. We even sampled some of the fresh fruit and nut bread that we had bought in the gift shop.
As we were almost through looking at all the buildings Russ met a fellow GeoCacher while I was taking pictures. He and ShandyGnome (user ID) chatted about some of the caches they had found, and Russ introduced her to Travel Caches and explained how they operated.
The peculiar name for the day comes from Batty Bog Road. To be totally ridiculous, I wonder what made the bog batty.
Russ ventured onto a side road – as is his want – which turned out to be a waste of fifteen minutes as it dead-ended at a farm gate. There was no sign indicating it was a No Through Road.
It also turns out that we travelled the rest of the way on the highway in 4WD high mode because he forgot to put it back when we left the laneway.
While Russ was sleeping Janelle rang so I went outside to the picnic table and chairs area so we could have a lovely chat and a catchup.
We went out to tea at one of the hotels and the meal was lovely. It was a touch above normal pub fare, and the price was very reasonable.