Every few weeks – like this last weekend – I like to think I go almost entirely off the grid – no TV, no computer, no WIFI. I confess I still do have my phone, but I really don’t use it much (maybe just one Instagram photo…or two…). Instead, I read a good book, or put a pair of walking shoes to use. Where and why, you ask?
At New Norcia…for ‘work’.
Welcome to the only monastic town in Australia!
As a mission started in 1846 by Spanish Benedictines, the first foundation stone of the community was laid in 1847 and has been alive ever since (very quietly mind you, being a monastery and all).
Yes, that’s my shadow ^
The town was named after the Italian town Norcia, where St. Benedict was born, who was the founder of the monastic order.
New Norcia is a collection of delightful buildings, very much of a Spanish style and almost too grand for their quiet country setting. Now mainly tourists are drawn to take a look at the place, but I can imagine how busy and bustling the place must have been to warrant buildings of such scale.
Though I haven’t taken a photo of everything, there are many buildings to discover, such as the New Norcia Hotel, the Art Gallery and Museum…
And St Gertrude’s and it’s stunning chapel.
The very humbling and beautiful cemetery, where you can see the graves of monks and lay people alike, who spent their lives in this community.
Here you can ponder the past and say a prayer, if you’re inclined to. I take in the the greatness of these people’s lives, who dedicated themselves to such a lifestyle and monastic order. Such greatness in such simplicity.
And finally here is where I put my head down for the night…the Monastery Guesthouse.
With its humble little chapel upstairs, where the monks gather to say their Divine Office, or Litany of the Hours – a very contemplative order of prayers throughout the day, that all are welcome to attend.
The few monks that are there now, kindly put me up for the night, so I can sing for them bright and early at Sunday Mass the next day. It’s a quiet community, but I feel it is such a great honour to sing in such a wonderful, historic space as Abbey Church. It has fantastic acoustics also and a special German organ built, with such a unique sound. The Benedictines revere the power of music so much and I think it’s wonderful that I can be a part of that!
Also, in the church is the tomb of Rosendo Salvado – the first abbot of the monastery – set in the very long apse, where you could imagine the many, many monks were once seated on either side for Mass.
But if you do visit New Norcia, my advice is to get up with the (very vocal) birds! Get up at dawn and go for a walk in the sunrise. Take a look at the buildings as the sun shines upon them from the east, or take the walk along the Moore River. It is so extremely peaceful!
If it’s around summer, an early walk means you avoid the heat and the flies. If you’re there in the cooler months, it means you get to crunch the frost under your feet and get that refreshing bite-y wake-up shake-up (or should it be shake-up wake-up?…either way, kinda like a dance…)
Truly the best time of year to go is in mid-spring, because all the flowers are out! Paddocks upon paddocks of daisies! Just watch out to not get the pollen on you’re favourite jeans – a mistake I’ve made way too many times all my entire life!
You can stay at the hotel, or the guesthouse like I do – very simple, but has all you need. It is donation based, though they do appreciate around $80 per person per night, but whatever you can spare will suffice. You just pop it in their donation box and be on your way. They provide a big lunch (which I haven’t managed to experience yet) and a two course dinner all inclusive in your stay.
Also, take the guided tour around the community and get into buildings you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.
You can also book these incredible buildings for long conferences and events, with accommodation and utilities for rather large groups of people. I think it’s a great opportunity!
Last Saturday night I might have dressed up while I was there and danced the night away with some INCREDIBLE friends….
But that’s for us to know and you to never find out!