This altarpiece from the New Chapel at New Norcia contains the figures of St Benedict and his sister St Scholastica. The Benedictine community at New Norcia follow the Rule of St Benedict, a book of precepts or guidelines for monastic living created by St Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century. St Benedict established a famous Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, while St Scholastica was the Abbess of a nunnery in nearby Plombariola.
About New Norcia:
New Norcia is a monastic town located 132 km north of Perth in Western Australia. The town is owned and run by a community of Benedictine monks and houses one of only three Benedictine monasteries (for men) in Australia. At its height the monastery housed approximately 80 monks, but currently there are only seven in residence. The Benedictines are part of a religious order within the Catholic Church known as the Order of St Benedict (OSB). Benedictines live in small, largely autonomous communities and base their way of life on the Rule of St Benedict, which prioritises a balance of prayer and work and calls for promises of stability, obedience and a conversion of life. The first Benedictine community was established in the sixth-century in Italy by St Benedict of Nursia (c.480-547).
Originally intended as a mission to evangelise and educate the indigenous peoples of the Victoria Plains, the site at New Norcia was founded in 1847 by two Spanish Benedictine missionaries, Dom José Benito Serra and Dom Rosendo Salvado. Serra’s involvement in the missionary activities at new Norcia decreased following his appointment as Co-adjutor Bishop of Perth in 1849, while Salvado (1814-1900) committed himself wholly to developing the mission and leading the monastic community. He subsequently became the key figure in the first 50 years of New Norcia’s history. He made numerous fundraising trips to Europe, which provided him with the means to purchase books, vestments, artwork and equipment for the community and also to oversee the construction of new buildings. He died in Rome in 1900 and his body was returned to New Norcia. Under Salvado’s successor, Bishop Fulgentius Torres (1861-1914), New Norcia became more like a traditional monastic settlement. An increased focus on education and artistic pursuits led to the establishment of two schools and improvements to many of the town’s buildings. For more information on New Norcia, see the New Norcia Benedictine Community website: http://newnorcia.wa.edu.au/.