New Norcia is a crossroads town on the highway from Perth to Newman, and will be a diversion from Highway One or the Wongan Hills route. Any diversion will be worth the effort. New Norcia is a museum town (read destination) in its own right. Allow plenty of time when visiting and include lunch at the 80 plus years New Norcia Hotel.
On 1 March 1846, a Benedictine mission to the local aborigines was started about 8 km to the north, led by the two Spanish Benedictines, Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra. Within a year the mission was moved to where the town is today, and on 1 March 1847 the foundation stone of the monastery was laid. The place was named New Norcia, after Norcia in Italy, the birthplace of St Benedict. Unlike the Italian Norcia, which is pronounced "nor-chee-a", New Norcia is pronounced "new nor-sia".
The town of New Norcia has buildings in a Spanish style of architecture, along with some other historical sites. Among these are the two old boarding schools, St Ildephonsus' and St Gertrude's (both now used for accommodation and various social functions), the Abbey Church (containing the tomb of Rosendo Salvado), an old mill, a wine press, a hotel, and the monastery itself. Tours of the town are operated daily by the Friends of New Norcia, who also organise the accommodation in the various buildings including the monastery retreat. The Benedictine monks continue to occupy the monastery and are involved with most of the enterprises in the town.