A view of the chapel interior at St Gertrude’s College, New Norcia. St Gertrude was a thirteenth-century Benedictine nun and mystic in Helfta, Germany. She entered the convent aged only 5 and was entrusted by the Abbess, Gertrude of Hackerborn, to the care of St Mechtilde. In her mid-twenties, Gertrude began having mystical visions and dedicated the remainder of her life to the study and teaching of the scriptures and theology. In the painting on the domed ceiling, she can be seen ascending to Heaven to meet Jesus.
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. St Gertrude’s opened in 1908 and originally functioned as a convent boarding school for girls. It was staffed by Josephite sisters, the first of whom were to New Norcia by Mary Mackillop at the request of Bishop Fulgentius Torres. The school closed in 1991 and is now used primarily as a venue for school camps. For more information on New Norcia, see the New Norcia Benedictine Community website: http://newnorcia.wa.edu.au/.