What could be more random than a Benedictine Monastery out in the middle of nowhere in Western Australian Wheatbelt?
In an area where all the small towns seem disarmingly similar, the monastic town of New Norcia with its ornate Spanish-style buildings seems so fascinatingly out of place.
Yet, somehow, this mixture of monastic buildings with Gothic and Byzanthine architectural features alongside quaint cottages and rusty sheds, seems like a perfect fit.
Located just a couple hours north of Perth and split in two by the Great Northern Highway, New Norcia was originally established in 1846 by Spanish Benedictine monks as a mission for the Aboriginal community.
First they built a chapel, then a monastery, followed by an orphanage, a hostel, storerooms, cottages, and a Flour Mill.
Along the way, stone buildings started to dominate the landscape, creating a slice of 19th century Spain in Western Australia.
These days, even though New Norcia is a working monastery offering the public a chance to participate in prayers and retreats with monks, it’s continued existence appears to be dependent on tourism.
And what was once a colonial mission with 80 monks has evolved into Western Australia’s oldest and finest living museum.
Within the art gallery is one of the largest collection in Australia of religious art by the Old Masters.
The New Norcia library is custodian of an extensive archive collection of correspondence, records, diaries, maps, and photographs of the town.
The walls of the chapel are covered with murals in dramatic contrast to the puritan wooden pews.
Visitors can wander around the town, map in hand, for a self-guided tour.
But that is limited to the outside of the buildings. To see the hidden treasures inside the buildings you have to take one of the twice daily guided tours.
Inside and out, New Norcia is a treasure trove of artifacts, antiquities, and art.