Work reveals history of New Norcia

Rosendo Salvado answered the Vatican’s orders with a 192-page report on the New Norcia missionary community.
Rosendo Salvado answered the Vatican’s orders with a 192-page report on the New Norcia missionary community.

WA monastic town New Norcia and a Queensland-based academic have helped bring a foremost figure in the State’s history further to life.

Stefano Girola translated a 192-page report handwritten in Italian by New Norcia co-founder Rosendo Salvado to the Vatican in 1883 on his Benedictine missionary community’s “origins, development and current state”.

“Salvado is one of the most interesting figures in the history of Colonial WA,” Dr Girola, originally from Milan, said of the Spanish monk who, after arriving in Perth in January 1846, famously walked “around 100 miles” north through bush to live among Aboriginal people.

“Until today those interested in reading in English Salvado’s recollections of New Norcia had to rely on his historical memoirs… published in Rome in 1851 and translated into English only in 1977.

“Instead, the document I translated and edited carries the historical narrative on New Norcia up to 1883.

“This was a report that in 1882 the Vatican Congregation of Propaganda Fide asked Salvado to write.

“Following Rome’s orders, he composed a very detailed account… providing invaluable information to all those interested in the relationships between Europeans and Noongars in the 19th century.”

Dr Girola, who teaches European and world history at the University of Southern Queensland and is an Honorary Fellow of the theology and philosophy faculty at Australian Catholic University, began translating the Salvado report in 2012 after receiving a New Norcia Abbot Placid Spearritt Memorial Scholarship.

The resultant 307-page book, Report of Rosendo Salvado to Propaganda Fide in 1883, was launched along with the 22nd edition of the New Norcia Studies journal in a joint City of Subiaco-New Norcia function last week.