New Norcia, St. Mary’s Cathedral & Dinner @ Venezia

Downtown Perth on St. George’s Terrace

Downtown Perth across from the Somerset Hotel.

The Somerset Hotel at St. George’s Terrace, Perth, Western Australia

Perth is 12 hours ahead of Waynesboro, so I don’t need to adjust my watch. And I am right about the farthest I can get from home without leaving the planet. Tomorrow, Sunday, we travel to Albany, south of Perth into colder climes. Brrrr. But really, it’s only been in the 40s and 50s.

We hit the road about 830 this morning and headed north to New Norcia and the Benedictine Abbey in the only monastic town in Australia, founded by Spanish monks in 1846. I hadn’t thought the Spanish made it all the way out here. They had arrived in the Philippines in the 1500s, where Ferdinand Magellan, Portuguese explorer died by the sword of a local chief Lapulapu (Philippine history, folks … I was paying attention). And the remnants of Magellan’s crew continued sailing west through the Indian Ocean, around the tip of South Africa, up the Atlantic Ocean and back to Spain.

We joined the monks for Midday Prayer in the Monastery Chapel at the guesthouse. There was only a handful of them, the abbott and five others or so. But the chanting was just as solemn and prayerful. Reminded me of the chanting at the Trappist Monastery in Gethsemane KY.

The Monastery at New Norcia.

The Abbey Church.

St. Gertrude’s College for girls. Boys were educated two buildings down at St. Ildephonsus, renamed St. Benedict’s College in 1965.

The pipe organ in the Abbey church. Behind the main altar is the tomb of one of the founders, Dom Rosendo Salvado.

After touring the surrounding buildings, we headed back to Perth and St. Mary’s Cathedral downtown. I had looked up the cathedral on Google Earth just to see how far a walk it would be from the hotel. There seemed to be some construction going on, but not in actuality. The pics on Google Earth must have been taken before the completion of construction on the cathedral last year. And what we saw was truly a remarkable architectural wonder. The old cathedral was sliced and diced, the crypt was dug out and new structures built to accommodate more seating. In some places, the brickwork and plaster were left exposed to show where the old building ended and the new building began. We attended the 6pm vigil mass there, and after, took a tour of the crypt. Truly a marvelous building.

I guess keeping it unfinished provides a striking visual reminder of what previously had been glossed over, which apparently, was not as aesthetically pleasing.

Old gives way to new, elegant and tasteful.

The baptismal font.

The main altar of the cathedral, in front of a new glass screen illuminated in surreal aquamarine light.

Dinner was at the Venezia Restaurant on Pierce Street, a block from the cathedral. We both had tiramisu for dessert, a great conclusion to a great day.