New Norcia' s Rebirth:

Salvado's Correspondence - Years 1868-1872

SHORT VERSION WITHOUT NOTES OF - BORRADOR SIN NOTAS DE: Teresa de Castro, "New Norcia’s Rebirth: Salvado’s Correspondence from 1868-1872”, New Norcia Studies Journal, no. 16 (2008) pp. 47-82. (El Renacimiento de Nueva Nursia: La Correspondencia de Salvado entre los años 1868-1872)
Teresa de Castro © 2009-2013. This paper is protected by Copyright Laws.




1.1. Letters from Colonial Officers

1.2. Letters About Business Affairs

1.3 Work-Related Letters

1.4. Letters On Personal Matters

1.5. Letters from the Diocesan Authorities in Perth

Martin Griver - Matthew Gibney Fr John O’Reily

1.6 Letters from Other Parish Priests

Fr Raffaele Martelli Fr Ildefonso Bertrán Fr Anselm Bourke

Fr Emiliano Coll Fr Adolphus Lecaille Other Priests

1.7. The Opening of St Joseph’s School at Yarawindo

1.8. Letters from Nuns


2.1. Salvado’s Letters from New Norcia

2.2. Letters to Salvado while in Spain and Italy

2.3. New Norcia Monks to their Superiors within the Colony

2.4. Monks working at New Norcia and its Stations

Letters on the Novices Letters on Ex-Brothers

Letters from Brothers Working in Other Stations

2.5. Miscellanea



4.1. Salvado’s Letters from Spain

4.2. Letters on the Benedictine Noviciate

4.3. Benedictine Nuns in Spain

4.4. New Norcia Brother’s Relatives

Santos Salvado in Spain Letters from Other Relatives

4.5. New Norcia’s Lay Friends in Spain

4.6. Business-Related Letters


5.1. Benedictine Monks and Nuns

St Paul & San Callisto La Cava San Martino

Priory of Montserrat Naples Nuns

5.2. Vatican Authorities

5.3. The Regnolis

5.4. Salvado’s Letters from Italy

5.5. Miscellanea




8.1. Letters from Burma, India and Egypt

8.2. Letters from Ceylon

8.3. Letters from and About the Philippines







The period that goes from the year 1868 to 1872 is one of struggle, and turmoil inside and outside New Norcia – a period of transition. This is the period of the effective separation of the Mission from the Diocese after the 1867 papal decree establishing New Norcia as an Abbey Nullius Diocesis, with a territory of its own, and erecting a Prefecture Apostolic of the same name, separate from the Diocese of Perth and just dependant on the Holy See. This is the period of the end of Garrido’s priory and the beginning of Santos’ priory. This is the period when some brothers would definitely separate from the community, and others would join it. This is the period in which Salvado received permission to establish a Benedictine noviciate in Spain, and in which that permission was revoked. This is the end of a long period of Protestant governors in Western Australia and the beginning of Catholic Frederick Aloysius Weld’s government. This is a period of transition in Spain – the reign of Queen Isabel II ended and a revolutionary period began. This is a period of evolution in the Catholic Church, too, with Vatican Council I as a corridor between two eras.


New Norcia correspondence for the period 1868-1873 contains letters sent to New Norcia community –mostly to Rosendo Salvado, Prior Venancio Garrido, and Fr Bernardo Martínez– from Australia and overseas, documents enclosed with letters addressed to the Mission, and some copies of letters sent from New Norcia. We can find documents written before this period (1852, 1854, 1858, and 1866) and after it (1874, 1875, 1878, 1879, 1887, 1889, 1891, 1938, and 1950), which were mistakenly included with this correspondence. This series also contains reports, accounts, receipts, bills of exchange, certificates, notes, proceedings, speeches, lists, invitations, circular letters, memos, and much more. Half of the letters are in Spanish, but those in English are still 39% of the total. Most of the correspondence (about 43%) belongs to year 1868.


I am examining here the 1,492 documents included in New Norcia Archives, series Salvado Correspondence, Accession number 2234A as follows: File 23 (1868), 535 letters; file 23a (Certificates of Cleanliness of Sheep, 1868), 12 letters; file 23b (Papers concerning El Escorial, 1860, 1867-1869, 1887), 101 letters; file 24 (1869), 190 letters; file 25 (1870), 227 letters; file 25a (Statements of Salvado’s account with Henry Manning of London, 1870-1873), 1 series of documents copied all together; file 26 (1871), 217 letters; file 27 (1872), 190 letters; file 27a (Papers on Yarawindo School, 1872-1873), 19 letters. Some letters are just repeated copies, while a few others are actually missing pages of letters summarised in another place, or of missing letters. Note: I will mention just the file number onwards. A document is described as misplaced when it is out of chronological order within the microfilm or within the series. I have grouped the notes related to a section all together, and I have translated myself the quotations that were not in English. When I mention just Salvado, I refer to Rosendo Salvado, not to his brother Santos Salvado.








Sp & Eng

Lat & Ita






















1. Letters from Western Australia


1.1. Letters from Colonial Officers

A) Governor Frederick Aloysius Weld –directly or through his secretary Henry Blundell– wrote the majority of the letters in this section. Weld arrived in Western Australia in September 1869 just when Salvado was leaving for Italy to attend the Vatican Council. They had a brief encounter in Albany on 17 September, and they chatted about some matters, among others the closing of the Camfield Native Institution in Albany and the possibility of sending the juvenile offenders to New Norcia. Weld offered a sincere hand to help the Mission, but Salvado mentioned that it was not needed and that he would return soon – Salvado told Garrido that although Weld was full of good intentions, it would not be good for Weld to personally support the Mission just after his arrival, especially because some members of the Government did not like the Mission. Weld visited New Norcia at the beginning of November 1869 and was impressed with the work of the Mission with the Aborigines; then, he discussed with Garrido the conditions of the sending of the juvenile offenders to the Mission.


The public matters that worried Weld the most were, firstly, his wish to improve the situation of the Aborigines, especially the way they were treated by the Judicial and Penal System, and the state of juvenile offenders in Rottnest Penal Establishment. Secondly, the discussion of some bills, especially the Bill of Education, partially inspired in a petition signed by the Catholics of Western Australia presented to him, and thirdly, colonial and imperial politics and politicians. At a private level, Weld would comment on his family, the situation of Europe after the success of the liberal revolutions, his health problems, and his ordering of a richly decorated frame for the image of Our Lady of Good Counsel at New Norcia from England. Moreover, he wrote some letters related to horse dealings, introductions to people who were going to New Norcia, and sent some invitations to Salvado to attend dinners or balls.


Weld was a devout Catholic, but also the Governor of Western Australia, so he wanted to support Catholic   demands and interests while serving the Queen and showing impartiality, at least publicly. This clearly appears in the letters he exchanged with Rosendo Salvado regarding the Bill of Education in 1871, when he was accused of partiality by some journals; for example, he did not attend the welcome given to Bishop Martin Griver at his return to Western Australia on July 1871 because the debate in Parliament had to take place a few days later and public opinion would consider his attendance a proof of favouritism to the Catholics. His fight for impartiality led to the approval of the Denominational Education System, which would guarantee economic support to church schools, but the laicization of education in Government Schools by using books deprived of any religious content. Weld appears in his letters as an astute politician, who trusted Salvado’s opinions and directions in important political matters. Weld would talk openly to Salvado and express his thoughts without taboos about other politicians or some Catholic clergy, and he would request Salvado to influence the opinion of certain politicians, the Diocesan authorities, and the Catholic community.


B) Weld’s arrival also gave impulse to the experimentation with new industries, especially with coffee and sericulture – Three letters from the Colonial Secretary Frederick Barlee, and the letters from Eric Laurence and William Dale –from the Horticultural Society– and Reverend Charles Grenfell Nicolay dealt with the forwarding of silkworm eggs and young mulberry trees, and the exchange of different sorts of coffee beans. Most of the letters that Malcolm Fraser –Surveyor General– sent to New Norcia in these years dealt with the purchase of a New Norcia horse, but he issued some pastoral licenses, a tillage lease transfer, and a circular print dated 16 November 1872 related to the new regulations applying to the tenants of Crown Lands. On his part, Joseph Logue Junior –Inspector of Sheep– signed Licenses of Quarantine, Certificates of Cleanliness from Scab, and sent letters related to the inspection of New Norcia flocks. Prior Venancio Garrido received two summonses from Edward Wilson Landon on 13 April 1869 related to the way the Mission had acted regarding scabby sheep. A letter from Robert Quin –District Surveyor– two letters from William John Clifton –Resident Magistrate at Newcastle–, and a timetable of the mail ship arriving at King George’s Sound sent by Postmaster General Helmich in 1868 complete this section.

1.2. Letters About Business Affairs

Different merchants and farmers wrote to New Norcia about the purchase or sale of New Norcia horses, sheep, seed wheat, lime, and properties (James Oliver offered Bassendean for sale in 1872, for example); and the use of Norcia Mill, and the exchange of wheat for flour. There are some accounts or requests of payment for different services and works provided to/by New Norcia, too. The Archive also keeps the lease of a property of Thomas Dickson to Robert Simpson, dated 2 June 1869, done through lawyer George Leake. Noteworthy is the letter that the Sheep Owners Association of Western Australia sent to Salvado on 2 June 1869 informing of their decision to fix the yearly salary of any shepherd with good references at £24 due to the fall in the wool market and low prices of meat.

1.3 Work-Related Letters

Shepherds George Henry Ikin and William Fitzgerald, and sawyer John Shannon wrote most of the letters in this section. The shepherds’ correspondence dealt with the state of the sheep, the availability of water, and the need of rations, tools, and clothing. Ikin’s letters are the most colourful and detailed, offering an insight into the life of this honest, hard-working shepherd who had some facility to find trouble; during these years, shepherd Stephen Bathford –working for William Phillips– threatened Ikin several times, a fact that distressed Ikin, as  did the outbreaks of scab in his flocks. Sawyer John Shannon wrote to inform of the time of collection of the timber he was cutting for New Norcia and to request for rations. Worth mentioning is the upset letter that Patrick Troy sent to Rosendo Salvado on 28 February 1872, after receiving the last payment for his work; he considered that Salvado had treated him unjustly and said, “I admire the nicety with which you have balanced my account. Bells which your deputy valued at 3/– each have become worth 5/–, and a worthless Bitch, which I only kept out of compliance to the Mission rules, and which was poisoned by devouring part of the carcass of a dead sheep is made an excuse to deduct 30/– from my hard-earned pittance.” The Archive also keeps letters from people offering their services – Jessie More and Henry Bolton offered to make bricks on 1 February and 16 October 1871, respectively, while Catherine Barnes offered herself to work as needlework woman on 10 March 1871.

1.4. Letters On Personal Matters

The Archive keeps some introductory letters for people visiting New Norcia, several congratulatory and greeting notes, and some letters requesting medical or spiritual attention for the authors or their families – Bridget Connor requested Prior Venancio Garrido on 28 April 1868 to administer the sacraments to her dying father, while David Bathford requested of Fr Emiliano Coll on 7 May 1872 some medication to help him with his ear problems, to mention two examples.


A good number of letters requested news regarding relatives or friends who were living close to the Mission or had died there. George Byrnes wrote on 10 September 1869 asking about James Burns, a fellow-Irishman, who was apparently living near New Norcia. Edward Green wrote a “juicy” letter to Garrido on 20 March 1870 regarding his missing wife, who he had heard was at New Norcia with her lover pretending to be a widow and wanting to marry him. Patrick Donnelly wrote on 21 January 1871 asking if it was true that his brother-in-law Edward Baldwin had died at the Clunes’ and if he was buried at New Norcia. Finally, John Higgins wrote on 13 October 1871 regarding the death of his friend James Dollard at New Norcia, since he wanted to know if he had mentioned anything related to a property that the Woods were claiming, which Dollard had always promised to Higgins’ daughter, his Goddaughter.


Another group of letters dealt with personal events and biographical details. Peter Gugeri, a newly-arrived colonist, sent a letter in Italian to Rosendo Salvado on 2 May 1871 about his business projects in Western Australia (related to viticulture and sericulture) and mentioned, “I was born in London in 1846. My father was a Swiss man from the Ticino Canton. My mother was English. I remained in London until I was eleven years old, and then I was sent to a school in Como, in Lombardy; after a few years there, I returned to London for a short time. Since then, and until my departure for these [Australian] colonies, I was mainly working in Italy, first managing a property of my uncle, which then became mine by inheritance.” Young Kate Jackson wrote a delightful letter to Fr Raffaele Martelli on 26 September 1872 describing in detail her first Ball, held at Government House, and giving news about her holidays with the Welds on Rottnest Island. Thomas Little’s letters written from Dardanup between 1869 and 1871 commented on the sickness and death of his son William, the problems that appeared with his inheritance, the presence of Aborigines in the area, and his vineyard, among other things. Especially interesting is the long letter that Pensioner Edward Roach wrote on March 1871 imploring Salvado’s protection to recover his family home at the Subiaco grounds, after the Diocesan authorities had expelled them from it adducing breach of contract; Roach mentioned the pitiful and distressed state of his family, and the circumstances that surrounded his case.

1.5. Letters from the Diocesan Authorities in Perth

A) Fr Martin Griver, who had been working as Administrator of Perth Diocese since 1859, received two Papal Bulls dated 1 October 1869 appointing him Bishop of Tlos and confirming him as Administrator. Griver decided to go to Rome for his consecration since he had to attend the Vatican Council and to take the opportunity to look for priests and Christian Brothers to take to WA. Griver was consecrated Bishop of Tlos on 16 June 1870. Perth’s nominal Bishop, John Brady, died on 2 December 1871, but Griver was appointed Bishop of Perth only on 5 August 1873. Griver’s correspondence in these years revolved about four main subjects: 1/ The confirmation, prolongation and updating of faculties given to New Norcia priests to work in different parts of his diocese regarding attention to the faithful, hearing of confession, and absolution from general and reserved cases. 2/ The placing and moving of the different priests in the Colony, and his constant request to use New Norcia priests to attend to certain areas. He gave many details about the stormy relationship between Fathers Bourke and Lynch, the tireless work of Fr John O’Reily, and the death of Fr Michael Kirwan. 3/ His work to get government support for the Catholic Schools. He promoted a petition of the Catholics to the Colonial Government in June 1869 –signed by more than 2,000 people– asking to support the Catholic schools. The Legislative Council dismissed it in July, so Griver wrote a memorial to the Secretary of State for the Colonies exposing the situation of the Catholics; however, the Acting Governor did not accept to forward it with the Estimates of that year as Griver wanted. Griver did not give up and he wrote to Archbishop Edward Manning on 19 July 1869, enclosing the memorial and copies of his correspondence with the Colonial Government, requesting him to present them to the Secretary or the Under-Secretary. After the issue of the Education Act in 1871, Griver showed his unhappiness at the removal of some hymns to Our Lady from the Christian Brothers’ textbooks, the ones used at the Catholic schools, a decision he had not agreed upon and considered humiliating. 4/ The creation of Yarawindo School; see section 1.7. Noteworthy are also his comments on the spiritual attention he gave to Aborigine Harry before his execution in October 1871, his explanation about why the feast of the Immaculate Conception was considered a day of devotion or obligation in different parts of the Colony, and his comments on deceased Br Mauro Rubio. Two letters written in 1866 were mistakenly placed with this period’s.


B) Matthew Gibney wrote to New Norcia especially after he started to work as Acting Administrator after Griver’s departure for Rome. On 20 July 1870, Gibney showed his interest in getting the Catholics involved in Politics and voting a candidate who would support their claims, and he requested Martínez to inform the Catholics in the Victoria Plains on how to enlist themselves in the Electoral Roll. Governor Weld brought forward the Bill of Education in June 1871, and the Legislative Council discussed it in July. Gibney knew what he wanted to do, but not if that was the best thing to do, especially because the Bill established a conscience clause in mixed schools, and he was not sure about what position to assume if the Council wanted it applied on all schools. Gibney requested Salvado’s advice and was grateful about Salvado’s presence during the debate because “I may possibly have occasional puzzles put me either by the Legislative or by others and to which I might be refused to give a ready answer.” After the debate, Griver thanked again Salvado for leading them to battle and showed his happiness at the approval of the Bill, especially because it would serve to raise the education standards in the Colony. The Central Board of Education had to act on the removal of any religious book or texts within the books in use. Gibney knew that Reeve’s History of the Bible, an Anonymous History of England, and some hymns to Our Lady were going to be removed; however, he attended the final session and sent a note to one of its members, William Marmion, requesting to leave at least the Protestant Hymns to Our Lady, which was finally granted. Gibney recognised that he had missed Salvado’s presence and advice, and asked his opinion on his actuation. Gibney wrote on other subjects and, among other matters, he mentioned the baptism of Mr Lygius, the publication of Mrs Edward Millett’s book, and commented on Garrido’s sickness and death, Carolina Louisa Farrelly’s death, and on the way Egan’s children were going to be taken to Perth.


C) Fr John O’Reily arrived in WA on 24 January 1870 and proved himself indispensable for the work of the Diocese. His letters to Salvado in 1871 dealt mostly with the writing of the memo to the Government supporting the Bill of Education; O’Reily requested Salvado’s opinion and corrections. His most interesting letter is the one dated 21 June 1871 in which he requested Salvado’s advice regarding the fact that he had married a Catholic minor girl to a Protestant ex-convict without having the father’s written consent as specified by the Marriage Act, and the distress that such a negligence could cause him.

1.6 Letters from Other Parish Priests

The correspondence from the parish priests in this period shows a richness of information that goes beyond the pastoral, rare to find in other years. All of them commented on their work with their congregations, the state of the Diocese, personal and business matters, and their interest in forwarding Aboriginal children to New Norcia. Moreover, New Norcia priests also commented on their parallel work in serving the Mission while away. 


A) Fr Raffaele Martelli was working as parish priest at Fremantle before retiring to New Norcia –his “earthly Paradise”– on November 1868. His correspondence while serving outside the Mission revolved about 1/ his wish to leave Fremantle, especially after the worsening of his relationship with Fr Thomas Lynch, which he mentioned at length; 2/ his works to complete Fremantle Catholic Church, which he wanted to finish before leaving for New Norcia; 3/ and the procuring and forwarding of the mahogany seeds that Salvado had requested from Europe. After his return to New Norcia he became minister of public instruction at the Victoria Plains and teacher of the Aboriginal children; however, he gave a hand to the Diocesan Administrator by serving short periods in Perth (1 week in October 1869, Holy Week 1870), Fremantle (December 1869 to February 1870), and Toodyay/Newcastle (Easter 1872, October-December 1872), and he also made some trips outside the Mission, especially his expeditions to the Northam and Champion Bay areas. Most of the time, Martelli was unhappy at leaving the Mission, so much so that he rejected Martin Griver’s proposal of being the Acting Administrator while he was in Rome, and, most importantly, he only went to Albany to welcome Salvado back to Western Australia after Garrido ordered him to do so. Noteworthy items of news are those related to the “indignation meetings” held in Adelaide and Perth to show the revulsion of the Catholics to the attempt murder on the Duke of Edinburgh in 1868, the departure of Fr Kilian Coll for California from NSW, the death of Aborigine Jack at Fremantle, and the conversion of Mr Louison, among others. Misplaced with this period’s correspondence are some letters from 1854 and 1858.


B) Fr Ildefonso Bertrán was working as parish priest at Guildford and serving the Catholics of the Gingin District before returning to the Mission after the arrival of a new group of postulants on 3 May 1869, to work as Master of Novices, his former position at New Subiaco. Bertrán’s correspondence informs of the opening of a school on 4 January 1868, the inauguration of St Mary’s church and the consecration of the cemetery on 22 March, and the steps taken to procure the money and materials needed to build the projected house of the priest before leaving. Very interesting are his comments regarding the division and packing of the goods belonging to New Subiaco, his details about ex-brothers Magarolas and De San Miguel, and his proposal to Salvado on how to convince Aboriginal parents in Gingin to send their children to New Norcia. Noteworthy is the letter he sent to Salvado on 20 May 1868 copying the wine recipe used at Subiaco –a modified version of the recipe of Wine British Champagne– and commenting on the fermentation method.


C) Fr Anselm Bourke made his profession on 26 July 1858 at Subiaco, after doing his noviciate there while teaching at the public boy’s school in Perth. He surely became a New Norcia monk after the separation of New Norcia from the Diocese in 1859 and the incorporation of Subiaco’s monks to the Mission. However, Bourke passed most of his life working as teacher and parish priest for the Diocese – York and Fremantle in this period. His correspondence offers details about an obscure episode of his biography. Bourke asked Cardinal Alessandro Barnabó –prefect of Propaganda Fide– dispensation from his monastic vows on 28 February 1870 adducing that 1/ He had no religious vocation and had never agreed with the conditions of his profession’s oath. 2/ He had not led a religious life for many years, and had never followed the vow of Poverty. 3/ He had not come to Western Australia to work with Aborigines exclusively. 4/ New Norcia brothers had always showed hostility to him. 5/ The Mission did not do anything good for the physical or moral benefit of the adult bush Aborigines, the mortality of New Norcia Aborigines being so high that the bush Aborigines did not want to go there, and that the Mission members kept some facts related to the behaviour of the Aborigines hidden from the public. His demand for dispensation should not arrive at New Norcia by surprise. In fact, Garrido had told Salvado on 16 May 1868 that they should take Bourke back as soon as possible because they were risking losing him forever. Barnabó replied in 1870 requesting Bourke to send a copy of his letters to Salvado, and to get Salvado’s assent to go ahead with the procedure, and Bourke did so on 15 February 1871; Bourke was aware of the harshness of his affirmations, and he mentioned that some passages would be weary reading, and added that Salvado would certainly be glad to get rid of such a useless and disaffected member of the community. Salvado surely gave his assent because, on 30 April 1871, Cardinal Simeoni –secretary of Propaganda– granted the dispensation by commutation, and ordered Bourke to return any money and goods belonging to New Norcia. The commutation meant that Bourke’s superior had to ask Bourke to do something before getting the dispensation. When Bourke forwarded Simeoni’s document Salvado acted in a un-collaborative way without explaining to Bourke straight away how to get effective commutation; Salvado said in his first letter that he would not take the responsibility of giving him the advice Bourke requested. However, the tone of the letters progressively softened, they discussed what it meant to get a dispensation and how to solve the problem posed by the oath formula Bourke used in his profession, and they ended resolving the matter amicably and exchanging proofs of affection. Salvado commuted the vows for the celebration of 200 Masses on 30 August 1871. Bourke started to celebrate them, make the accounts, and send back New Norcia money and belongings straight away, and he finished the assigned Masses on 18 June 1872. Bourke’s interest and belief in the importance of the evangelization of adult Aborigines is clear in two moving and beautifully-written letters that he addressed to Garrido and Salvado on 15 July and 2 August 1868, respectively, describing the circumstances surrounding the death of Aborigine Alick Winnal at York. However, it is astonishing that he criticised New Norcia so harshly and, at the same time, kept sending Aboriginal children before and after his dispensation. If the adults behaved so badly, why would he want to send any child there? After becoming a diocesan priest, Bourke had some problems dealing with Father Matthew Gibney regarding the distribution of the arrears of his salary as New Norcia priest, on which he complained and requested help from Salvado. Extremely interesting are his comments on the Aborigines at Rottnest.


D) Fr Emiliano Coll served as a priest in Fremantle in January-February 1868; noteworthy is his letter dated 14 January mentioning his impressions on the Fenians during a visit to the Fremantle Prison to replace Fr Bernard Delany. Coll also worked as parish priest at York in August-September 1868, and he wrote gloomy letters that oozed a feeling of abandonment, lack of material means and help, and showed his passivity with his congregation because he knew he would leave soon.


E) Most of Fr Adolphus Lecaille’s letters dealt specifically with the search for and forwarding of Aboriginal children and teenagers to New Norcia, and the request for payments and horses to New Norcia for their conveyance. Lecaille was serving the Greenough and Northampton areas at the time, but he always wanted to work for the Aborigines. He mentioned that, while in Bunbury in 1858, he had learnt the language of the Aborigines and wrote part of a dictionary and other texts in their language; however, he was sent to the North and gave up his missionary project because he did not want to learn the language of those Aborigines fearing that he could be removed from there any time. However, the contact with adult Aborigines and the fact that many youngsters offered themselves to go to New Norcia, reinforced Lecaille’s conviction of the need to create a New Norcia’s branch in the North, and on the convenience of searching and forwarding Aboriginal children to New Norcia. Lecaille mentioned to Salvado his projected branch mission on 17 June 1869, adducing the difficulties in evangelising adult Aborigines in Western Australia because no priest knew any Aboriginal language, most Aborigines did not understand English, and, even if they knew, white people did not like the Aborigines entering any church; Lecaille exposed his detailed plan to attend to both Aboriginal adults and children in their areas of origin. Salvado replied on 30 June, but the correspondence (nor Salvado’s diary and “letterbooks”) do not mention what he said.


After Salvado’s departure for Rome, Lecaille convinced Prior Garrido to allow Fr Martelli and Br Agustín Cabané to go to his area and look for Aboriginal children. They, with Jimmy –an Aborigine from the Geraldine Mines living at New Norcia– left in June 1870. Garrido mentioned to Salvado on 17 June 1870 that Lecaille had some Aboriginal children and Martelli had gone to pick them up – a white lie, perhaps, since they had left to search for Aborigines and not to pick up any. Before their departure, Lecaille wrote requesting to postpone the expedition, but they were already en route and they never got the note. Jimmy did not want to go, but New Norcia superiors sent him because he was happy at the Mission, was well groomed, and they thought that his presence would convince Aboriginal parents to send their children to the Mission; however, soon after arriving, Lecaille had to send Jimmy back because they met a corroboree of Jimmy’s tribe and they wanted to take him back using force. Lecaille realised that it would have been better to send an Aborigine of the South in whom those Aborigines would have had no interest. Martelli, Cabané, and Lecaille –together or separately– made trips to the Geraldine Mines, Port Gregory, Northampton, and the Champion Bay area, and visited places where the presence of Aborigines was common. However, they found that the Aborigines were dismantling their camps at the news of the arrival of the priests for fear that they would kidnap their kids, which was not their intention. Although the failure was evident, they thought of awaiting the shearing season to visit sheds and farms to see if they had better luck, and Martelli requested instructions from Acting Superior Fr Bernardo Martínez. Martínez did not reply, and since Lecaille shared the same pessimism, they decided to put an end to the expedition and return to the Mission because Aborigines, “They do not part with the few children they have both through natural feeling and prejudice against the Mission, besides the obstacle of the great distance, and the fear that they will never see again their children.” Martelli added that since the Aborigines did not want to go to the Mission, the Mission should establish a branch Mission in the North; however, Martelli was sceptical about the results of such a project, too. Martelli and Cabané left for the Mission at the beginning of August 1870. Lecaille mentioned his project of branch mission to Salvado again on 5 November 1870, and requested him to visit the area to understand better the situation of the Aborigines, and to do something for them. Salvado replied on 13 November praising Lecaille’s zeal, but stating that it was practically impossible for New Norcia to start any new project at the time, and to wait for better times.


Other matters of interest in Lecaille’s correspondence were the request of donations for the building of the Northampton and Geraldton churches, the interest of Joseph Watson –Police Constable at Strawberry– in sending aboriginal children to New Norcia, his dealings with the Clinches regarding the late James Deary’s estate, on which he gave many details, and he provided Bertrán with a recipe for oil coats.


F) Fr Thomas Lynch’s letters to Garrido from Fremantle in 1868, Neapolitan Fr Valerio D’Apreda’s letters to Salvado from Greenough (4 December 1871), and Fr Bernard Delany’s letter from Albany (23/6/1872) dealt with personal matters. Another group of letters dealt with Aborigines: D’Apreda’s letter from Champion Bay (27 February 1872) on Aborigine William Bi Tutabà, Fr Patrick McCabe’s letter from Bunbury (2 April 1868) on Diana Wenan, and Fr Hugh Brady’s two letters written in 1872 about forwarding two Aboriginal girls to Perth. Work and business related are the letters that Fr Patrick Gibney wrote to Garrido from York (20 September 1869 and 30 March 1870), and the letters regarding the arrival and conveyance of the Arab horse Greenfield to New Norcia that Fr Delany sent to New Norcia in 1871. Delany also made an interesting proposal to Rosendo Salvado on 26 June 1871 – sending some old Catholic newspapers to the Catholics living in the bush since the Post Office did not charge their postage. Fr Juan Carreras wrote to Rosendo Salvado on 24 June 1872 informing of his appointment as manager of the newly-created orphanage of boys at Subiaco, his plans of work, the state of the place, and requesting seeds of different plants; his letter of the 16th July thanked Salvado for the seeds and commented on Salvado’s warning about Subiaco’s poor soil.

1.7. The Opening of St Joseph’s School at Yarawindo

Some colonists in the
Victoria Plains showed their interest in having a school built in the area in March 1871, and they informed the Acting Administrator Fr Gibney through Fr Martínez. Gibney replied on 8 March 1871 endorsing their wish and promising –on Martin Griver’s behalf– £18 a year for the support of the teacher, and requested Martínez to lead them following Salvado’s advice. The Catholics of the Victoria Plains held a meeting at New Norcia on 31 December 1871 and decided to build a school at about 4 miles from the Mission. A committee formed by Fr Bernardo Martínez as chairman and treasurer, John Martin Butler as secretary (and future teacher), Mathew Clune, Jeremiah Clune, John Clune, Andrew Lanigan, Thomas Fitzgerald (who then withdrew) and Thomas Leahy, authorised Butler to collect funds. They informed Griver about the project, made a budget, and proceeded to request subscriptions. The Archive keeps several lists of subscriptions, mentioning the name and sums or work promised by each person. The main benefactors were Griver (with money), Rosendo Salvado (with money and sundries), and the Clunes (who donated 3 acres of river-frontage with a large water pool within).


Gibney wrote on Griver’s behalf on 21 February 1872 telling Martínez to begin the works, and agreeing that it would be better to build the school of burned bricks and larger than initially proposed. However, Griver was not that enthusiastic about the project. He was thankful to Martínez for his zeal, but he thought that if parents did not bind themselves to send their children to the school, it would fail – without a minimum attendance, the Government would not pay any subsidy, the school would have to close, and the money expended would be wasted. On 6 March 1872, and before authorising the start of the works and giving any money, Griver requested Martínez to ask the parents to sign a document promising to send their children to the school, but they did not send any. On 13 March, Griver advised Martínez to be cautious on a project that did not look good, but he promised £35 just because Martínez was convinced about the success of the project. On 20 March, Griver expressed his dissatisfaction with the area eventually chosen for the school, since the first one was more convenient to the Fitzgeralds, Boxhalls and many other Protestant families and not just to the Clunes and Butlers. Before authorising the start of the works, Griver demanded the transfer of the land to the Diocese, the donors paying for it, and requested the parents to sign the memo he was sending on fees payable for each child.


The block of land for the school was marked in April 1872 and the Committee proceeded to procure the materials and start the works: William Butler agreed to make and deliver the bricks on 26 February, and to build and plaster the school house and the teacher’s house on 20 April; Thomas Leahy signed an agreement to cart the stone on 9 April, and John Caygill signed his to do the carpenter work on 12 May. John Shannon would supply the timber, and John Finney the shingles, and the door and window lintels. On 22 May, Griver specified that he would pay his contribution in 3 instalments – one at the completion of the walls of the schoolroom and teacher’s house, another at the completion of the roof, and the last one when the doors, windows, and floors were fixed. The school building was finished at the beginning of June and the teacher’s house was in course of erection. The Building Committee intended to open on 1 July, but the heavy rains and floods of that winter prevented them from doing so. The inauguration of St Joseph’s School took place on 29 September, Sunday, at 3pm with great attendance of public. The Archive keeps drafts of the speeches delivered by Martínez and the Building Committee, and the toasts exchanged. Noteworthy are the long considerations that Martínez made that day on the necessity of a Catholic School, on the deficiencies of secular education, the value of religious education for the formation of the individual, and on the respect of liberty of conscience for the children from other creeds attending the school. On 23 October, Griver complained on being asked for further contributions due to the deficit of the works (estimated at £80, but amounting to £139.9.6), promised to pay half of the deficit, and reminded Martínez on the necessity of getting the legal transfer of the school ground before paying his last instalment, which he sent on 30 October.


Before applying to the Government for assistance, the Committee needed to appoint 3 managers, and select one of them to contact the Government. Griver wanted Martínez to be the correspondent. However, after the opening, Martínez decided to withdraw from the project adducing need to rest, the real reason being that Salvado did not allow him to be one of the managers; he even tried to convince Fr Raffaele Martelli to be one of the managers, but Martelli declined on 20 November. Griver thought that if none of them accepted, the school would close soon after opening. However, on 7 March 1873 the Managers –Jeremiah & John Clune and John Martin Butler– applied to the Government to qualify the school as Assisted School under the provisions of the Elementary Education Act 1871 and receive government support. At the time, 21 children were attending the school daily.


1.8. Letters from Nuns


Most of this correspondence came from the convent of Sisters of Mercy in Perth, and from its superior Mother Mary Aloysius Kelly. The constant health problems and death of some sisters, the building and moving of the community to their new convent (which opened on 18 October 1871), the affection developed between the sisters and Governor Weld’s family, Garrido’s sickness and death, and Hanna Hunt’s sickness while she was in Perth Hospital, are the most important subjects mentioned in her correspondence. Especially interesting is the letter she sent to Salvado on 22 May 1870 regarding a conversation of hers with Governor Weld, in which he expressed his horror about how Aborigines were treated when Justice wanted them to give evidence in Court, chaining them to avoid their escape, mentioned that New Norcia had accepted to receive Aboriginal juvenile offenders, and that he wanted to provide the Aborigines in Rottnest with religious education; Kelly mentioned her happiness that the Governor had accepted her proposal to transfer to New Norcia the £50 grant that the nuns received from the Government “as we found by experience that the native girls did not get their health under our care.” Also noteworthy are her letters dated 24 April 1871 mentioning the case of Aborigine Mary Jane Wanguegian at length, and the one 12 March 1872 describing the effects on a hurricane on their new convent.


Sister Mary Ignatia wrote two letters to Rosendo Salvado on 31 January and 29 February 1872 concerning the material and spiritual state of her 72-year old brother, whom she wanted to pick up from Ireland and take to Western Australia. Sister Mary Elizabeth wrote to Salvado on 21 November 1871 on behalf of the Prioress of Subiaco NSW requesting New Norcia community’s prayers for the soul of the Benedictine Fr Bede Summer. Sister Mary Francis write two letters, one to Garrido on 14 February 1869 related to the copying and lending of some musical scores, and another to Fr Martelli on 26 August 1872 on the progress of the Sodality of the Children of Mary. Sister Mary Emily wrote to Fr Martínez on 5 May 1869 the only letter from the convent of Saint Joseph in Fremantle commenting on her return from New Norcia.




2.1. Letters from Rosendo Salvado while at New Norcia


Most of the letters Salvado wrote from New Norcia were addressed to Fr Bourke regarding his dispensation from monastic vows as discussed in section 1.6.C. This series does not keep the letters he sent to the diocesan authorities regarding the Education Bill and other important matters, but a mix of letters sent to New Norcia members, workers and Western Australian colonists on different subjects, one letter to the Colonial Secretary Barlee (24 January 1872) on mulberries, and two letters to Archbishop Polding (18 April & 26 December 1872) regarding his nomination of a candidate priest for the See of Adelaide.


2.2. Letters to Rosendo Salvado while he was Spain and Italy


Fr Venancio Garrido –Prior of the Mission–, Fr Bernardo Martínez –in charge of the Mission while Garrido was sick, and Acting Superior since May 1870–, Santos Salvado –Prior since 1870–, Fr Ildefonso Bertrán –Master of Novices–, Fr Raffaele Martelli –Salvado’s friend and confidant–, and Br Agustín Cabané –who was taking care of Garrido in Perth– wrote to Salvado commenting on the news that Salvado was sending from Europe – anything related to the project of the college novitiate, the Vatican Council, the receipt and celebration of Masses, and the progress of the project of coffee and coconut growing. These letters were also an update of the Mission news regarding letters received, the agricultural works, the sale of New Norcia wool and horses, and the purchase or lease of land blocks. The items of news about the community were abundant, regarding the state of New Norcia monks –with long comments on Garrido’s sickness, the fact that he was not taking proper care of himself, and the attentions he was receiving until he died–, the state and evolution of the newly-arrived novices –the receipt of reference letters from Spain and the drowning of Br Urbano Celaya on 7 February 1870–, and information about ex-Brothers Magarolas, Rotaeche, Ferrara and Beleda. There are also many details on New Norcia Aborigines regarding departures, arrivals, marriages, deaths, births, and their needs, and on New Norcia neighbours. The relation with the administrator of the Diocese, the movements of the parish priests within the Colony, the state of the nuns working in WA, and colonial politics and politicians –especially the visit of Governor Weld to New Norcia– were subjects mentioned in this correspondence.


Garrido’s letters focused on his problems with Griver regarding the use of New Norcia priests (Frs Bourke and Coll, especially), the problems related to the respect of the Rule and the feeding of the brothers performing hard physical work, the purchase of Marah and the difficulties to pay the instalments, the terms and conditions of reception of Aboriginal juvenile offenders from the Government, and the worries of the community about the high mortality of New Norcia Aborigines –mostly pure-blood male– due to chest and lung problems. Garrido called the community’s chapter in the evening of the feast of the Holy Trinity in June 1868 to discuss the matter, and they decided to advise them not to smoke, that horse-hunting could be dangerous for their health, and to give them meat in the mornings to improve their strength. As Garrido said, “The same is happening in the rest of the Colony, where the Australian [Aboriginal] youth is dying as if by a spell.”


Also interesting are Santos Salvado’s comments regarding his differences with Martínez in dealing with different events, and his feeling of being left aside by the other priests of New Norcia when dealing with important decisions, especially after Martínez’s appointment as acting superior, and his interest in photographing the Aborigines and their resistance to letting him do so. Noteworthy are also Martelli’s comments on the Aborigines on Rottnest Island, their poor living conditions and high mortality, and an episode of cruel treatment of them by one of the Prison officers in 1868. Martelli also commented on the behaviour of the Fenians, arrived on 10 January, and the political situation created in WA and between UK and America, and on the destruction of Subiaco outhouses by fire in March 1868.


2.3. Letters from New Norcia Monks to their Superiors within the Colony


I include here the from Garrido/Martínez/Santos to Rosendo Salvado in Perth, the letters from Martínez/Santos to Garrido in Perth and other towns, and the letters that Martínez sent to Santos in Perth. The main reasons that took New Norcia superiors to Perth were to visit the Lands and Surveys’ Office to deal with the purchase or lease of land blocks for the Mission, to visit Shenton’s store and other suppliers to deal with the supply of staples, sundries and tools, and to visit the Court, the hospital, and the Parliament. As mentioned above, these letters would mention anything going on at the Mission and in the dependent stations, and the authors would also send cheques, sketches and accounts, would request some goods and blocks of land, and mention the receipt of products at the Mission. Garrido’s ailments and anything related to Governor Weld were main subjects in this correspondence.


Santos Salvado’s letters were not only work oriented, but also people and community oriented. They show an image New Norcia less aseptic and diplomatic. Especially interesting are his comments about the lack of internal discipline among the monks, the fact that some brothers ignored his orders or did not follow them as he wanted, and his comments about the personal enmities and arguments among New Norcia Aborigines. I also include here Brothers Agustín Cabané, Fulgencio Domínguez, Florentino Gasulla, Froilán Miró, and Fr Emiliano Coll’s letters to Fr Martínez or Rosendo Salvado while they were in Perth requesting some purchases of products or land, or enclosing some cheques.

2.4. Letters from Monks working at New Norcia and its Stations


A) Letters on the Novices

The cases of the newly-arrived Esteban Tomás and Suitberto De Orbe’s sufferings, religious doubts and mental troubles, as discussed in section 4, were not exceptional among the novices. Br Benito Romarategui gave early evidences of insanity in 1870, showing an erratic harmless behaviour; his situation deteriorated because he was kept locked in his cell, guarded by Br Montoya, from which he escaped in January 1872; Prior Santos had to send men after him to the bush and the search went on for several days. Despite his mental problems, Fr Martínez decided to give him the habit on 24 December 1869, a fact that made Salvado say on 20 February 1870 that Martínez should not have done so unless he had Garrido’s explicit permission, and that they had acted flippantly by giving Romarategui the habit.


During Fr Bonifacio Goicoechea’s postulancy, he did not follow his orders as well as he should and he did not advance in his virtue and Religion as it would be desirable, facts that made Fr Bertrán doubt if he could made his profession. Br Gerardo Gómez –a professional tailor– had a huge argument with the senior brother tailor in charge of the tailor shop due the fact that Salvado had not left specific instructions regarding which work should any of them perform; we know that Gómez showed signs of mental trouble as early as January 1873. Br Ángel De San Miguel left the Mission on 6 June 1869 adducing lack of vocation, his wish to get married, and the fact that he –as other novices– were very sad at learning on their way to WA that some of them would never profess; despite Fathers Griver and Bertrán’s long reprimands and advice, and De San Miguel’s shame, he would not return, and would go to work with ex-brother Juan Bancells. Br Fructuoso Orio started to give problems in March 1873, and he would be expelled in December that year. Finally, Br Urbano Celaya, drowned while swimming in one of New Norcia pools, despite being a good swimmer, on 7 February 1870.


B) Letters on Ex-Brothers

Ex-Br Mauro Beleda –who left the Mission on 27 January 1865– sent several business letters on behalf of his boss James Clinch. However, he informed Salvado on 21 February 1870 of his decision to join the community, and requested him to get the necessary references from the bishops of Beleda’s diocese of residence in Spain; Garrido, Santos Salvado, and Martínez’s correspondence mentioned Beleda’s strange behaviour, and the surprise and distrust of the community, which did not want him back. Also interesting is Beleda’s letter dated 21 October 1871 including his version of New Norcia’s Coat of Arms, to which he had added some symbols to show more clearly that the Mission had been brought forward by the work in the fields and by Spaniards. Beleda always showed a great affection and respect towards Salvado, “I don’t ask Your Lordship to appreciate me, no, direct your affection to those who deserve it; but, I will always love you (…) and I will always be your humble servant, whom I will defend.”


Br Domingo Rotaeche, who had left in 1861, re-entered the Mission on 2 March 1868, to leave again at the end of 1869 and go to work for the Clinches. On 23 March 1870, Garrido mentioned that Rotaeche wanted to return, this time to make his perpetual vows. However, a letter from Griver to Salvado dated 20 December 1871 mentions that Rotaeche had told him that he had left again because he wanted to work without taking any vow, as an oblate, but that Salvado did not want that; Griver thought that Rotaeche would be very useful in the boys’ orphanage to be opened in Subiaco. On 28 January 1872, Santos Salvado mentioned that Rotaeche had returned to New Norcia to stay once again. Rotaeche would not stay, and he got married in 1873.


Although Pietro Ferrara left in 1867, there are a few references to his request for dispensation from his vows, the obtention of it by commutation –carried out by Fr Martínez due to Salvado and Garrido’s absence–, and Pietro’s activities in WA. Two letters from Garrido dated in 1868 let us know that he was working for the Clinches “where they treat him like the prodigal son, but he eats with the servants”, that he had proposed marriage to Mrs Clinch’s servant –Ellen Bridget Butler– telling her that he had money in the bank and that he would get dispensation from his vows, but the girl rejected him with indignation because he was a monk; Mrs Clinch, who had considered Ferrara almost a saint, changed her opinion on him dramatically. Br Gregorio Sotillos, on the other hand, started to give evidences of his mental problems in this period, too.


Domingo Magarolas left New Norcia on 18 March 1868 without permission from his superiors. He had unsuccessfully discussed his case with Garrido before writing to Propaganda Fide asking for the dispensation from his vows and telling him that he wanted to join the Benedictines at Lyndhurst NSW, and requested monetary help from the Mission. Garrido informed Salvado of the situation while the community was praying for Magarolas to open his eyes. Salvado wrote a long letter to Magarolas, which arrived in February 1868, but it did not change Magarolas’ mind. Garrido promised Magarolas to give him money if he just waited at New Norcia for the decision of Propaganda, but Magarolas decided to collect some gum to pay for his trip. Magarolas wrote to Garrido on his way to Perth on 21 March, asking him to lift the prohibition to receive the sacraments and to comply with his Easter duties during his journey, and to send him an exeat (license of absence). His next stop was Fr Bertrán’s residence in Guildford, where he arrived on 23 February. Bertrán let him stay just that day, and Magarolas went to ask for alms among the Catholics of Guildford, and talked badly about New Norcia’s way of life and about the unhappiness of other brothers. Magarolas left for Perth next day, and Bertrán wrote to Martin Griver mentioning that they should pay Magarolas’ trip to prevent him from talking badly about the Mission. However, Magarolas did not visit Griver, and he left King George’s Sound a few days later. Magarolas wrote to Salvado from Perth on 30 March requesting exemption from his vow of Stability so he could enter another religious house, and mentioned his reasons for leaving the Mission: 1/ that the monastery of his profession (New Subiaco) had been abandoned, and that he went to New Norcia just because Salvado had ordered him to do so, not on his own accord. 2/ The brothers did not follow the Holy Rule at the Mission; moreover, New Norcia intended to change the Constitutions and system of life against the instructions of the Cassinese congregation, which was the one Magarolas had joined. 3/ The many jokes and jibes that the other brothers were doing on him. 4/ That Garrido had assigned him the worst jobs, so he could not go to Mass or choir for weeks; however, he was requested to attend Matins while the other working monks had exemption. 5/ That Br Odón Oltra had closed the harmonium room to prevent Magarolas from playing during his spare time. The Victoria Plains correspondent of the Gazette noticed the departure of Magarolas and maliciously stated that, not able to endure the yoke of the religious life, he had broken at once the vows of Poverty, Obedience, and Chastity. Magarolas left in such a situation that he found many problems in Sydney, as described in section 3.


C) Letters from Brothers Working in Other Stations

I include here the letters that Fr Bertrán sent to Garrido while dealing with the gathering and packing of Subiaco belongings for New Norcia, in which he mentioned the conflict of interests between New Norcia and the Diocese, and the attitude not always collaborative of Martin Griver. Br Dositeo Más, Br Eustasio Ortiz De Landaluce, and Fr Emiliano Coll from Marah, and Br Romualdo Sala and Br Mauro Rubio from Yulgerin wrote while they were working in the lambing, shearing or washing of the flocks informing about how the works were going in, their needs regarding men, animals, rations, clothing, and tools, on the work of other brothers and workers, and their possible date of return to New Norcia. Especially interesting is the vivid description that Br Rubio gave about the settlement of the camp in Yulgerin, written on 26 May 1872.


2.5. Miscellanea


The Archive also keeps letters from New Norcia members dealing with many other subjects. Noteworthy are Fr Bernardo Martínez’s eulogy of Venancio Garrido dated 12 August 1870, the day of Garrido’s death, several letters in French exchanged between Martínez and Martelli in 1872 just to practise the language, and Br Romualdo Sala’s letter to Salvado –probably dated in 1872– explaining his own project on how to gather postulants for the Mission in Spain. Also interesting is a misplaced memorandum by Santos Salvado, dated about 1875, with a proposal to create and direct a Benedictine noviciate in Spain.




Catholic clergy from New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia sent most of the correspondence from the Eastern colonies. We have, in first place, the correspondence from some people who wanted to join New Norcia – Fr Kilian Coll wrote on 20 February 1868 commenting on the collapse of the Denominational School System in NSW, that many Catholic teachers were without a job, and expressing his wish –in a very vague indirect way– to join the Mission. The Scottish Fr Duncan MacNab requested his admission on 1 March 1870, and asked for a copy of the Rule, the regulations of the noviciate, and a sketch of the way of life if available. MacNab was older than 50, so Salvado sent a negative reply from Europe. MacNab replied on 7 October 1870, showing his bitterness and disappointment at the news, gave many biographical details about his life before moving to Australia, and requested Salvado to let him enter at least as a secular priest. Duncan would only move to Western Australia in 1883, invited by Bishop Mathew Gibney, to work as chaplain in Rottnest.


Magarolas’ two letters to Venancio Garrido from Sydney are a bitter request to provide him with the documents he desperately needed. In his first letter (20 May 1868) he affirmed that before reaching Sydney he stayed 9 days in Adelaide and 8 in Melbourne, that he had enough money left to return to Swan River if he had wanted, and that “with the strangers that never knew me I find ten times more kindnes[s] and charity than with my co[u]ntry people.” Just Bravado. Garrido did not reply to Magarolas, but he mentioned in his correspondence that he had replied on 18 July to a letter dated 9 June 1868 from Cistercian Fr Woolfrey, who was hosting Magarolas in his house out of charity, mentioning that the Vicar General had refused to receive Magarolas into Lyndhurst, the Benedictine house; then, Magarolas visited Archdeacon McEnroe, who sent him to Fr Dillon, and the latter to Woolfrey, who requested Garrido to send the documents that Magarolas had been claiming. Magarolas wrote again on 15 July in the same terms, and so did Woolfrey on 17 January 1869. Magarolas’s situation worsened due to the lack of documents because Fr Benito Martín, in a letter he wrote to Salvado on 17 April 1871, mentioned that a traveller had told him that Magarolas was working in the goldfields in Queensland, always complaining about how poor he was.


The state of the Diocese of Adelaide before and after the death of Bishop Laurence Bonaventure Sheil and the procedure taken to hurry the appointment of his successor without having to gather all the suffragan bishops is the subject of another group of letters written by Fr Christopher Augustine Reynolds (24 April 1871) and Archbishop John Bede Polding (23 & 24 March, and 2 December 1872). Polding also wrote three other letters related to his going to the Vatican Council in Rome.


New Norcia Archive keeps a copy of the Minutes of the General Chapter of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart held in Sydney in 16-20 December 1889, a letter from Sister La Frayne informing of the sending of a gift to New Norcia, and some notes enclosed with forwarded documents.


We only have one letter from a non-Catholic – Reverend Douglas Boutflower, MA of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, and Anglican chaplain of H. M. S. Cossack. The ship arrived at Fremantle from Nickol Bay at the end of January 1872, and Boutflower decided to visit New Norcia, taking a note of introduction by Governor Weld. Boutflower intended to go with a doctor, but the difficulty in finding a coach changed the doctor’s mind. This did not stop Boutflower who left Perth on foot on 31 January 1872! Fr Matthew Gibney informed Salvado of this, naturally worried. We do not know how Boutflower got to the Mission, but he certainly visited New Norcia. Boutflower wrote on 2 April 1872 from Sydney informing Salvado of how he has passed Easter, and sending a few extracts of a letter that Br Ignatius of Llanthony –i.e. Revd Joseph Leycester Lyne– had wrote to him.


The only lay person, the Consul of Spain Eduardo San Just, wrote two letters in 1868, the first commenting at length on the attempted murder of the Duke of Edinburgh in Sydney by the Catholic Deacon James O’Farrell, and the reaction of Catholics and non-Catholics to the event.




4.1. Rosendo Salvado’s Letters from Spain


The long detailed letters that Rosendo Salvado sent to Prior Venancio Garrido while he was in Spain dealt both with the news received from New Norcia and Western Australia, and with his work and stay in Spain. The matters that worried while in Spain were his work to obtain permission from the Government to establish a noviciate for Benedictine missionaries for overseas and the lack of money (the impossibility of getting loans and the scarcity of donations) to do so. Once he obtained permission, he mentioned his touring of Spain in search of properties and people to settle the college noviciate, his strenuous work while working in El Escorial, and the events that followed the Revolution of September 1868. Salvado would also mention the sending of Mass stipends and books to New Norcia, would request seeds of eucalyptus and gum trees for his Spanish friends, would comment on the progress of Sister Carmen Baliñas’ project, on the death of some acquaintances, and on the call for the Ecumenical Council in Rome (Vatican I). Despite the many difficulties, Salvado requested the community to keep united, and remarked that he was convinced that God protected New Norcia, “I see that things that seemed to be a dream turn out to be true (…). God is opening such unexpected ways that I am myself astonished.” The matters that worried Salvado regarding New Norcia while away were, the state of the monks (especially Garrido’s health problems) and the Aborigines, the division of Subiaco’s goods between the Diocese and the Mission, and Garrido’s lack of decision to put an end to Griver’s use of New Norcia priests working for the Diocese (especially Bourke, Bertrán and Coll). Salvado also commented on some decisions of Garrido regarding the feeding of the brothers, the failure of the first settlement in Nickol Bay, New Norcia ex-brothers, and the possible removal of the policeman from New Norcia.


4.2. Letters on the Founding of a Noviciate for Benedictine Missionaries


New Norcia community needed fresh recruits because the work was physically very hard and most missionaries were already quite old. The departure of Rosendo Salvado from Rome for Spain in May 1867 had as a main purpose the creation of a noviciate to supply the Mission and guarantee its survival in the future and, to do so, Salvado had to get permission from the Spanish Government. The suppression of the religious Orders and the expropriation and resale of the clergy’s properties (called Desamortización) took place in 1836. Although the Concordat between the Spanish Government and the Vatican put an end to this policy in 1851, the Government did not authorise the reopening or reclaiming of the monasteries closed and sold, nor the restoration of the monastic Orders. The only religious houses that the Government tolerated in Spain were those of the Orders working in the process of colonization in Spanish colonies, mainly in the Philippines. Since Salvado was working in an English colony and not in a Spanish one, he had to present a project that would allow him to give formation to the missionaries for the Philippines at the same time that it provided the Mission with new people. Salvado wrote a 19-page-long request to Queen Isabella II on 8 November 1867 explaining why he wanted to establish the novitiate, mentioning the success of New Norcia in Australia, the praise that the Mission had received from Protestant people and newspapers, and the kind of support he wanted to get. Carlos Marfori –Minister for Overseas– informed Salvado on 11 February 1868 that his application had been approved, mentioning the conditions of the permission, and that the Government would request the opinion of the religious authorities in the Philippines about the area to confer on the Benedictines.


Since Salvado had no money or place where to settle the noviciate, he started a tour of North Spain in search of donations and of a building where he might do so. Salvado’s correspondence mentions that he was receiving many offers of sale, which he could not afford, or donations of places that needed repairs and/or refurbishment, or did not have the requisites he was seeking. Although many writers recommended some places, there are a few letters specifically dealing with this matter. Fr Antonio Valdés recommended the monastery of Silos, Fr Mauro Simón Busto Irache, Fr Naudó –on José Buigas’ behalf– the Sanctuary of Coll, and Fr José Serra two big monasteries in San Juan de la Peña that were surrounded by profitable woodlands. The most serious proposal arrived from José De Toledo, a rich man from Granada, who offered Salvado one of his properties in Alhama –one that suited Salvado’s needs–; they arranged Salvado’s visit to check the property, but El Escorial appeared on the scene and Salvado never visited Granada. In fact, while Rosendo was in Bilbao, Santos Salvado had informed him that Mgr Antonio María Claret –Director of El Escorial and confessor of the Queen– had contacted him in March 1868 because he wanted to pass El Escorial onto Salvado, and needed to discuss the matter personally. Rosendo returned to Madrid and, after some discussions, he accepted the offer and informed the Ministry. The manager of the Royal Palace, ex-minister Marfori, informed Salvado on 22 June 1868 that the Queen had appointed him president of El Escorial after Claret’s resignation.


The next step was to look for the cornerstones of his project, the people who would manage the noviciate at El Escorial, and to look for postulants for the college. Salvado requested the opinion of some clergy about the best men to help him – his friend Cardinal Pitra, Fr Salvado Rivera, Fr Ildefonso Infante, Fr Hermenegildo del Río, and Fr Alonso De Atocha, among others. Eventually, Salvado chose the Benedictines Fr Santos Salvado, Fr Mauro Simón Busto –chaplain of the convent of nuns at Las Huelgas–, Fr Justo España –Vicar at the convent of Cistercian   nuns at Santo Domingo De la Calzada–, Fr Ildefonso Infante –secretary to the Bishop of Valladolid–, Fr Ángel Sáenz De Valluerca –theologian working as assistant director in the Badajoz Seminary and beneficiary of the church–, and Fr Hermenegildo Del Río –professor of Theology and Morals in Bilbao–. Most of the correspondence in this section relates to the case of Busto and Infante, who found many difficulties to leave their positions and join Salvado at El Escorial due to the reluctance of their prelates to let them go – the first due to difficulty to find a replacement for the chaplaincy he was serving, and the second because his bishop needed him to carry out the work in the Valladolid Diocese. Eventually, Busto would join Salvado after his bishop found a substitute for his chaplaincy, but Infante’s prelate did not let him go. Fr España and Fr Sáenz De Valluerca did not have problems with their diocesans, but circumstances forced them to delay their trip to El Escorial. Another group of letters contains direct or indirect references to the postulants who wanted to join the noviciate at El Escorial or go to New Norcia, directly, through people in charge of gathering postulants (especially Fr Hermenegildo Del Río, Antonio De Oar, and Rosario Balauzategui), or through their diocesan bishops.


During Salvado’s presidency of El Escorial, he worked almost to the edge of exhaustion. El Escorial contained an ecclesiastical corporation called of the Royal Chaplains, with a good number of teachers, some priests, and a few lay men; there was also a numerous seminary, a big boarding school for children and Salvado had to attend to the administration of all of this; moreover, he had to create and organise the College and attend to his correspondence. It is not strange that Salvado mentioned on 6 September 1868 that he barely had time to eat or sleep. The Archive keeps a group of letters related to the internal management of El Escorial – lists of teachers and students in the College and Seminary, lists of chaplains, lists of lay people working for the monastery, and the rules of the doorkeepers of the Seminary and College provided by Dom Dionisio González, Dom Felix González and Dom Remigio García, or the plan of life of the monks provided by Fr Mercedes Millán on 3 July 1868. There are several letters related to Br Brugulat, three letters by Claret related to the visit of the Royal Family to the monastery in August 1868, and a mix of letters dealing with other subjects, the most interesting being the one written by John George Braun on 28 June 1868, in which he expressed his sincere opinion about the state of the college and seminary, and the reforms that he thought necessary.


Two events would put a stop to the project of the Benedictine noviciate at El Escorial. The first was Nuncio Alessandro Franchi’s complaint to Propaganda Fide about Salvado being president of El Escorial while –as Abbot of New Norcia– he had the obligation to reside in his Abbey. A letter from Santos Salvado to Rosendo Salvado dated 20 September 1868, written after visiting José Nacarino Bravo, mentioned that Franchi had visited Bravo and had mentioned that Salvado could not do anything for New Norcia at El Escorial because the Spanish Government would not allow him; Bravo replied that the Government had authorised Salvado to found a college of missionaries for the Philippines knowing that Salvado would also provide New Norcia, and Franchi replied that he would like to see the Decree and that Salvado was not keen on visiting the nunciature. Salvado informed Claret on 13 August of the complaint and requested the support of the monarchs on 9 September 1868; Claret replied on 17 August and 14 September cheering Salvado up, stating that the monarchs wanted him to continue as President, and that they would write to the Spanish Ambassador in Spain to support the case at the Vatican. However, Propaganda wrote via Simeoni on 30 July 1868 ordering Salvado to return to New Norcia. Thanks to his friends Fr Francesco Leopoldo Zelli and Cardinal Jean-Baptiste-François Pitra, Salvado got confidential information on the reasons adduced by Franchi, and he addressed long letters to Cardinal Alessandro Barnabó –Prefect of Propaganda Fide– on 13 August, to Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli –Secretary of State of the Vatican– and to Pitra on 14 August commenting on Propaganda’s decision. Salvado reminded Propaganda that the Pope himself had encouraged him to go to Spain and make a foundation to guarantee New Norcia’s continuity; that he did not intend to stay permanently in El Escorial but organise the College, appoint a director, and leave for Australia; and that President of El Escorial was a showy title that meant just superior. Salvado also stated that the main reason behind Franchi’s complaint was to put Salvado out of El Escorial, that he had written proofs that other Orders wanted to be there, and that if Salvado was president of a poor monastery nobody would have bothered. Antonelli’s letter dated 2 September 1868 mentioned that the Pope considered incompatible his abbacy with the presidency of El Escorial, ordered him to leave the place, and to establish the college in a more suitable place in the Peninsula, but did not mention his obligation to return to Australia.


The second event was the “Glorious Revolution” started in Cadiz on 11 September 1868, which forced the Queen out of the country, and started the Revolutionary Sexenio period (1868-1874). The provisional Government (and the revolutionaries committees before its formal appointment) confiscated all Royal properties, El Escorial included. The Archive keeps the letters exchanged between Salvado and the heads of the Revolutionary Committee of El Escorial town (Mora, Álvarez De Alba, Del Campo) in which they gave some instructions regarding the management of the place. The newly-appointed Government issued a decree on 18 October 1868 prohibiting any religious association. That very day, Enrique Álvarez De Alba –Finances administrator of the El Escorial Committee– accepted Salvado’s resignation. The Committee provided Rosendo and Santos Salvado with a travel pass to travel within Spain without being disturbed, a fact that did not prevent some people from abusing them on their way to Madrid. Salvado went to London immediately afterwards to prepare his departure for New Norcia with a group of postulants, and they left on 3 February 1869. The permission to establish the noviciate was revoked next month, as the new minister informed Salvado on 27 March 1869.


4.3. Letters from Benedictine Nuns in Spain


Sister Carmen Baliñas De Castro, from the convent of Benedictines of Corella, is the main contributor in this section. Her long letters to Rosendo Salvado, Santos Salvado, and Venancio Garrido –her supporters and advisers– dealt mostly with the problems surrounding her project to found a Benedictine convent in Cuntis. The letters that describe best the foundation and the problems she found after the Revolution were the ones she sent to Rosendo Salvado from Cuntis on 26 August 1868 and to Garrido from Corella on 27 June 1869; the second letter contains a delightful narration of how the nuns made the image of St Benedict in Cuntis using an image of St Joseph taken from Corella, and a request   for permission to send Cuntis Constitutions to New Norcia for correction. I also include in this section the greeting letters that Claudio Ormazabal –a lay friend of Sister Baliñas– sent to Rosendo Salvado through her.


Abbess Pascuala Llorente, her novices, and the chaplain Fr Alejandro Plaza wrote from the Royal Monastery of St Benedict in Estella. The ones from the chaplain (4 March 1868) and the novices (13 March 1868) were related to the visit of Salvado to the convent; Plaza also passed some confidential information on important clergymen that Salvado had requested, and commented on Irache monastery. The Abbess’ letters (5 August 1868 & 31 July 1869) were congratulatory notes, the first on his appointment as President of El Escorial, and the second on his return to New Norcia. Finally, the Archive keeps a letter from Sister Pilar de Santa Teresa dated 24 May 1868, informing that she had not been authorised to accept Salvado’s invitation, and inviting Salvado to visit her instead.


4.4. Letters by New Norcia Brother’s Relatives


A) Letters from Santos Salvado before joining New Norcia

Santos was a faithful diligent secretary to his younger brother Rosendo, and he took care of the search, purchase and sending of any goods required and requested. He also forwarded letters and other documents, paid bills, and replied to some letters on Rosendo’s behalf. Santos used to gather information about postulants or people making proposals to Rosendo; thus, Santos made some inquiries about José De Toledo, and he   ascertained that he was an important capitalist and could fulfil his promises. Santos was always keen in getting any information regarding Rosendo Salvado –especially relevant after Rosendo became President of El Escorial– because it could benefit his brother and New Norcia’s cause. For example, Santos heard from a friend that there were some irregularities in El Escorial regarding the sale of wine to the public, the existence of some practises of favouritism among the clergy teachers, the relapse of some religious duties, etc., of which Rosendo was not aware; Santos offered himself to go there and see what was really happening, because –according to his friend– the personnel would not have any problem in telling Santos everything, but it would to Rosendo. Santos’ letters are always colourful, with many details about their common friends and family, appointments of secular or regular clergy, the latest news about the Royal Palace and the monarchs, the Parliament sessions, and any relevant political news. Santos also mentioned the visits he made and the ones he received, especially numerous after the settlement of Rosendo at Escorial. Santos reproduced literally part of his conversations with Mgr Claret about the transfer of El Escorial to Salvado.


B) Letters from Other Relatives

These letters were an update of the family news in Spain, a reaction to the news received from Australia, and a description of the troubles in Spain after the Revolution. All the writers belonged to very religious and conservative families, so they shared a similar negative opinion of the situation of the country, and the effects of the new laws on Religion, the clergy, and religious buildings. For example, Fr Bernardo Calvo –Venancio Garrido’s uncle– wrote on 10 May 1869 mentioning the expulsion of the Jesuits, the dissolution of the Order of St Vincent de Paul, the expulsion of nuns from their convents, the closing or demolition of some churches and chapels, the outrageous facts happened in Seville with some sacred images, and commenting on the issue of the Law on Freedom of Cult. Telmo Troncoso and Sebastián Salgado’s letters to Rosendo Salvado were requests of recommendations for some friends. The two letters by José Domínguez –brother of Br Fulgencio Domínguez– dealt with the sending of the arrears of some family money owed to Fulgencio.

The letters that the relatives of Br Esteban Tomás and Br Suitberto De Orbe’s wrote give us a glimpse of the struggles that these novices had to endure. Francisco Tomás wrote to his son Br Esteban on 6 June 1868 mentioning his surprise at learning that his scholastic career was not going well because the monks did not have enough time to study, and that they had to suffer from many physical and moral hardships. He advised his son to return to Spain if he considered the climate damaging for his health and the spiritual work and the monastic life too heavy on his shoulders, but he advised his son to stay if he felt that his work was inspired by the Holy Spirit, to be a zealous missionary, and to say the Rosary –as they did at home daily– to get the gift of wisdom. Miguel De Orbe wrote to his son Br Suitberto on 26 November 1870, worried about Santos’ comments on his being unwell, having many “scruples” and suffering much, and that it would not be surprising if the superior had to separate him from his companions; Miguel was distressed because he did not understand what Santos meant, but he told his son that the family would receive him with open arms in case he had to return. Br Suitberto’s uncle, Fr Juan Bautista De Asillona, wrote on 27 November 1870 advising him to follow the directions of his spiritual director, follow Obedience blindly, mention to his friends Br Basilio Asla and Br Elguezabal any worry, adding “Entertain your head, and don’t keep thinking and meditating on spiritual matters all the time, because there is a time for everything – to entertain yourself and to pray”.

4.5. Letters by New Norcia’s Lay Friends in Spain


The Maceiras, the Baamondes, and Ramón Gómez Parcero were the main contributors in these years, but New Norcia Archive keeps letters from many other lay friends who wrote regularly in this and other periods (Balauzategui, De Oar, Felix Del Río, and the Marchioness-Widow of Santiago), and from others that did seldom (the Ucedas, Camilo Rodríguez, Esteban Ruiz, and the Marquis of Monistrol). Beyond the personal and family news, their correspondence contained 1/ congratulations on the permission to establish the noviciate in Spain and about Salvado’s presidency of El Escorial, and expressions of sympathy after the failure; 2/ requests of favours and recommendations, 3/ and   complaints about the political state of the country and expressions of pessimism about its future. There was also anger at some acts against religious images, temples, and the clergy, and a common fear at the advance of heresy and Protestantism. Especially impacting are the words that the Marchioness-Widow of Santiago devoted to the Protestants, which mirror the opinion that well-off Catholics who befriended Salvado had after the issue of law on freedom of cults, “Here we have fighting the Protestants; we put them out of the houses they take [rent], and we make as much war on them as we can, despite the fact that the Government protects them and they give gold [in exchange]”. The mention of the gathering or availability of postulants ready to enter the noviciate college of El Escorial and/or go to New Norcia, are especially numerous in De Oar and Balauzategui’s letters.


Most of the letters written by Ramón Gómez Parcero and Manuel García Maceira from Tuy dealt with the possibility of Salvado establishing the novitiate in a Galician place called Chaos dos Duques. Parcero –who took the measurements– and especially Maceira were enthusiastic about the project because it would help the spiritual and material development of the area; therefore, they were very sad when Salvado abandoned the project. Maceira was also very interested in the cultivation of Australian eucalyptus, so he asked for seeds, mentioned the cultivation and progress of the trees, and commented on the commercial projects he wanted to carry out with them.


4.6. Business-Related Letters


Fr Pedro Naudó was New Norcia’s agent in Spain, in charge of gathering and managing the money he got from private people (inheritances, money to celebrate Masses, and donations) and from collections for New Norcia. Naudó used this money to pay for fabric and other goods requested from the Mission, and periodically sent it to New Norcia. Naudó’s most interesting letters are the ones dated 29 July 1869 and 16 August 1870, in which he commented on the situation of Spain, and the one dated 23 February 1872, in which he mentioned the problems that Abbot Miguel Muntadas had in Montserrat. The Archive also keeps four letters related to the purchase of fabric for El Escorial College, one letter about some casks of wine, and some others relative to the sending of donations for the Mission via Fr Infante and Fr Sartorio.




5.1. Letters from Benedictine Monks and Nuns


A) Monasteries of St Paul Outside the Walls and San Callisto in Rome. The correspondence of Francesco Zelli –Abbot of St Paul’s– and Fr Angelo Pescetelli –the Procurator– had in common their deep affection towards their confrere, the update of the news regarding the members of the community, the advance of the liberal revolution and its effects on the community’s daily life. Zelli mentioned the appointment of Luigi Vaccari as Bishop of Sinope in June 1872 (a great   loss for the community), and, on 14 June 1872, he gave his opinion on the newly-appointed Abbot of Montecassino Nicola D’Orgemont. Three of his six letters were more official, as Zelli acted as liaison between Salvado and some Vatican authorities after Franchi’s complaint about Salvado’s presidency of El Escorial; Zelli devoted harsh words to Franchi, and advised Salvado on how to defend his case. Zelli gave details about the erection of the statue of St Benedict by Giuseppe Prinzi in Norcia in 1879, in a misplaced letter. Pescetelli, on the other hand, gave details about the floods in Rome in 1871 and the departure of Br Pietro Ferrara from the Mission, among other matters. Bennone Mayo –a German Brother– wrote to Salvado on 6 March 1870 regarding the readings allowed in the refectory at St Paul’s, while Luigi Vaccari wrote on 18 June 1872 thanking Salvado for congratulating him on his appointment as Bishop of Sinope and Administrator of The Calabrias Diocese (i.e. Diocese of Mileto-Nicotera-Tropea, in Reggio Calabria). Finally, Br Pedro Pérez, a Spaniard living at San Callisto’s, wrote on 7 August 1868 mentioning his decision to return to Spain to find quietness.


B) Abbey of the Holy Trinity at La Cava, near Salerno. Old Br Domenico Vuoto sent two letters to his confrere Mauro Rignasco –New Norcia monk originally from Cava– on 26 March 1868 and 26 January 1872, the second when Rignasco was already dead. Vuoto’s letters are especially important because they relate without censorship the situation of the religious community in Naples after the issue of the law of suppression of religious orders, probably referred to the one applied in 1866, and the pitiful and miserable state of some brothers, and the state of confrontation of choir monks and superiors against lay monks within the Order. Vuoto described in detail the judicial process of confrontation, and he even mentioned the prices of the basic staples in Naples at the time. Fr Tancredi De Riso –monk of Cava working in his native Catanzaro– wrote three letters to Salvado in 1870 expressing his opinions on the state of Europe, his wishes about Politics and Religion, requesting Salvado to discuss the promotion of the cult to Our Lady in the Vatican Council and call her Mary of the Liberated, Madonna of Freedom or St Mary Liberator, and making some reflections on the meaning of true Freedom.


C) Monastery of San Martino in Palermo. Fr Ercole Tedeschi wrote two letters, dated 2 June and 2 November 1872, both related to the wish of 2 young priests and a lay man to join New Norcia. After offering themselves, they thought how hard it would be for them to say goodbye to their families forever, and they changed their mind.


D) Church and priory of Montserrat in Palermo. Fr Ignacio Corrons wrote long affectionate letters from a period that goes from 18 February 1868 until 28 September 1872. Corrons discussed the state of affairs of the church under his care after the Italian Government issued its law on convents and religious communities and proceeded to expropriate the house; Corrons appealed to the Court and remained inside alone during these years to avoid the sale of the church, priest’s house and belongings; however, the Court’s decision favoured the Government, and the place was sold while he was living inside, which forced Corrons to leave for Naples in March 1872. Corrons also commented on the triumph of the Liberal Revolution in Spain and the new Constitution, which he did not know but he considered morally dubious since it was born from an illegal act; therefore, when the Spanish Consul called upon him to demand his oath on it in May 1870, Corrons said no. Corrons also wrote on Salvado’s permission to establish a missionary college in Spain, and foresaw the difficulties that would lie ahead; he was convinced that Salvado should reach an agreement with Montserrat and open the college there, and he sent an draft agreement   to Abbot Miguel Muntadas on his own accord. Finally, Corrons commented on the Vatican Council and his excitement about the Bull on the infallibility of the Pope.


E) Dom Andrés Álvarez’s letters from an unknown location in Naples, but probably related to a  Spanish priory connected with Montserrat, are usually short and practical requests of favours to Salvado while he was in Rome – cashing-in of notes, updating of some altar privileges, and forwarding of different documents. Álvarez was a middle man between Pietro Ferrara and his family, so he commented on some items of news about the ex-brother.


F) Abbess Geltrude Desideri, from the convent of Sant’Antonio in Norcia, is the only Benedictine nun writing in this period. Her letters –written on 12 February, 9 March, and 10 April 1870– dealt with the making, delivery, and the payment of two rochets for Salvado; her community revered him, and they sent him some gifts and requested a copy of the Memoirs, whose reading they enjoyed very much.


5.2. Letters from Vatican Authorities


There is a group of seven letters issued by different members of the Vatican congregations. The most important for New Norcia is the one that Cardinal Antonelli addressed to Salvado on 2 September 1868 ordering him to leave the presidency of El Escorial. Propaganda Fide sent four letters through Cardinal Simeoni giving dispensation from simple vows by commutation to Pietro Ferrara – who got his at the end of 1869– and Fr Anselm Bourke –who got his in April 1871–. Mgr Alessandro Barnabó wrote to Archbishop Polding on 11 September 1872 authorising him to receive by mail the nominations of candidates for Adelaide See due to the pressing circumstances of the Diocese. A letter from Pope Pius IX (1 February 1872) thanking Salvado and his subjects for their letter of support, and another from Mgr Negroni (20 February 1872) sending a copy of the Vatican Directory, complete this section.


5.3. Letters from the Regnolis


Widow Malvina Regnoli and her son Scipione Lupacchioli, Widower Pietro Regnoli –brother of Malvina– and his daughter Emilia Regnoli were regular correspondents with Rosendo Salvado and Fr Raffaele Martelli. They sent updates of their personal and family news, the political situation of Italy and Rome, and of their common friends – the nuns of Santa Caterina, and some Benedictine monks and Vatican officials. Emilia and Scipione wrote short greeting notes, commenting on their studies and their parents. Pietro’s most interesting letter is the one he wrote to Fr Martelli in 1870 detailing the events related to the entry of the revolutionary troops in Rome, and his opinion about the unification of Italy, the Franco-Prussian War, and the Germans. Malvina’s letters are a tedious complaint about her troubled soul and weak faith, and a sempiternal request for prayers and advice from Salvado, whom she considered one of God’s favourite sons. Her letters are full of questions about Salvado and the Mission, but her most interesting one, written in 1872, mentioned her personal opinion on the false news that some Catholic newspapers had published about the treatment that the revolutionaries had given to the clergy in Rome, showing a depth of thought rare to see in her other letters.


5.4. Rosendo Salvado’s Letters from Italy


The letters that Salvado wrote to Prior Garrido from Rome, where he went to attend the Vatican Council, were written from 21 September 1869 until 17 May 1870. In them, Salvado gave details about his trip to Italy, his activities in Rome, and some general information about the sessions of the Council, but no specific details because the participants had made an oath of secrecy. He mentioned the sending of some donations to celebrate Masses, the purchase of the Latin and Greek Patrologies for New Norcia Library, and commented on the news received from New Norcia. Three main matters worried Salvado while away. The first one was the health of Father Bertrán and Prior Garrido, and the fact that they were not taking proper care of themselves; Salvado scolded Garrido for neglecting his health and not visiting the doctor, and he mentioned some remedies for his ailments and told Garrido that his health was not a private possession and that he was not allowed to die without Salvado’s permission. Salvado’s second worry was Governor Weld’s proposal to send Aboriginal young offenders to New Norcia to be educated; Salvado gave specific instructions to Garrido on the conditions to receive the boys, and advised him not to reply to any proposal before consulting with him. Salvado’s third worry was the state of the coffee beans and coconut sprouts that he had sent from Ceylon; he stated that this was a project of great importance for the future of the Mission, to take proper care of the plants, and to give news on the matter. A certificate of authenticity of signatures requested to get some payments due to Santos in Madrid, and a letter of thanks to Negroni after receiving the Vatican Directory complete this section.


5.5. Miscellanea


I include in this section a bunch of letters written by people visiting Italy while Salvado was still in Rome requesting help with   accommodation, some notes on meetings, some notes left at St Paul’s by visitors who did not find Salvado there, a circular letter from Archbishop Henry Edward Manning (1 June 1870) requesting prayers for deceased bishop Thomas Grant, and Br Antonio Giannuzzi’s request (1852) for faculties to allow his nephew to hold a confirmation in San Paolo, complete this section.



6. Letters from Great Britain


Most of the correspondence from the United Kingdom in this period was business related. Henry Manning and, after his death in January 1872, Charles J. Wainwright were Salvado’s agents in London. Most of their letters deal with the sending of goods or/and accounts since they were selling New Norcia’s wool, and providing it with sundries, tools, machinery, fabric, books, and anything requested. New Norcia also had another agent in the UK, Fr Thomas Heptonstall OSB, who managed Rosendo Salvado and Martin Griver’s bank accounts in London, and who acted as liaison between Salvado/Griver and Manning & Co., and between Salvado and other English clergy and lay men when Salvado was in England. I include in this section the tickets issued by Felgate & Co. for Salvado and the new group of novices to travel to Albany on board   the ship Robert Morrison.


Some Benedictine monks from Stanbrook Abbey, Ampleforth Abbey, Hereford (Belmont) Abbey, and Downside Abbey wrote to Salvado while he was in England, in November and December 1868, regarding his visit to their communities. Among these letters, I would like to highlight the one that Joseph Benedict Tidmarsh wrote on homeopathy from Little Malvern Priory on 3 December 1868, and the sweet note that the children of Stanbrook’s school wrote on 27 November 1868 thanking Salvado for attending their performance, and sending him a scarf and cuffs they had made themselves. Some other Englishmen wrote from England to Salvado or Garrido mentioning the death of Fr Heptonstall (7 June 1869), the Prussian   siege of Paris, and the situation of the Pope after the entry of the revolutionaries in Rome. Extremely interesting is Fr Timothy Donovan’s letter dated 14 July 1869 proposing to Salvado to buy a piece of land and open a missionary college in England.


Salvado wrote six letters from England to Garrido mentioning the failure of El Escorial project, his movements in England, and the need to get funds to pay for the trip of the group of novices; Salvado also commented on the improvements of Downside monastery since 1845. Salvado advised Garrido to call back some of New Norcia priests working for the Diocese, especially Fr Anselm Bourke. To these letters, we have to add the ones that Salvado wrote on 9 & 19 February 1869 on board   the Robert Morrison mentioning the number of postulants, the delay in leaving the English coast due to a big storm, the possible date of arrival, and the preparations to receive them, among other subjects. I also include in this section a declaration made on board by the group of postulants on 23 April 1869, somewhere between Europe and Australia, stating that they had voluntarily given the money each could to help themselves with the expenses of their journey to New Norcia, without expecting to ever recover it.




The President and Treasurer of Propagation de la Foi produced most of the letters sent from France in these years. These letters were formal communications of the allocation of sums and ways of payment. Propagation was especially generous with Salvado in these years, despite the dramatic reduction of their income in these years, aware of the pressing circumstances that he had to face after the failure of El Escorial project and the payment of the transport of the novices to Australia and, then, the payment of his return trip to Rome to attend the Vatican Council.


Fr Théophile Bérengier and Fr Viaud wrote several letters from the Benedictine monastery of Sainte-Marie-Magdeleine in Marseilles. Viaud’s letters mostly dealt with the procuring of a copy of the Latin and Greek Patrologies, and the ways of payment. Bérengier’s letters show the worry of the French monastic communities about the advance of the revolution, and the possibility of the French Government declaring illegal any religious association. Bérengier also sent Salvado a brochure he had written on his pilgrimage to Subiaco and Roiate, and mentioned that he had written an article about the Spanish Benedictines in Australia in the Revue du Monde Catholique correcting another by the Marquis of Rays that contained some mistakes. Both Viaud and Bérengier invited Salvado to visit their monastery. New Norcia archive also keeps a circular from Bishop Jacques Boudinet (10 February 1871) describing the dramatic situation of the Amiens Diocese after the Franco-Prussian War and requesting donations. Some letters sent by Spaniards passing or staying temporarily in France complete this section.



8. Letters from Africa and Asia


8.1. Letters from Burma, India and Egypt


León Hernández, a Spanish merchant living in Rangoon, wrote most of these letters, dealing with the purchase and sale of horses from/to New Norcia, the most relevant being the ones related to the sending of an Arab stallion horse to New Norcia, which also generated the letters from the Calcutta dealers who sent it – Gillanders, Arbuthnot & Co. The Archive also keeps the visa issued in Alexandria (Egypt) on 12 November 1869 by V. Laporte & D. Hoyani, on behalf of the Consul General of France, in favour of Salvado while he was on his way to Rome.


8.2. Letters from Ceylon


Two ex-members of New Norcia community –Fr Benito Martín and Fr Francisco Salvadó– wrote most of these letters. In these years, Sri Lanka was divided in two vicariates: the Vicariate of Colombo, which was in charge of the Sylvestrines (a branch of the Benedictine Order), and the Vicariate of Jaffna, which was in charge of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Except for Fr García’s letter, all the authors wrote from the first.


A) Benito Martín wrote six letters to Rosendo Salvado and one to Santos Salvado for a period that goes from 8 March 1870 until 26 October 1872. His letters are always brutally honest and full of detail. Benito was a zealous religious and missionary, always more interested in the religious welfare of the natives than in any clergy faction; he could be a man of rash judgment sometimes and an extra-patriotic Spaniard always. Due to his past problems with Catalan confreres while in Western Australia (25 May until 7 September 1855), he disliked them – he talked about Bishop Serra as being a sort of jinx and an envious person, the newly-appointed Bishop Martin Griver was a liar; and Fr Ildefonso Bertrán “a hypocrite loafer, an intriguer and malicious person who was more interested in business than in the soul.” Benito sincerely loved Bishop Ilarione Sillani, but criticised him for leaving the Sylvestrines to rule the missionary affairs of his vicariate without stopping them, and that he was neglecting his Episcopal duties. The case of the stigmatic-ecstatic woman, Helen, disciple of Fr García –a Spanish missionary working in the Jaffna Vicariate– moved Benito immensely, and he meticulously described her weekly ecstasies, which he witnessed. Fr García’s only letter, dated 22 October 1872, also dealt with Helen. Other subjects that appear in Benito’s letters are Spanish politics, news about ex-brothers of New Norcia and some clergy acquaintances in Spain, the refurbishment of his church, his two servant boys, some of the governors of the island, the Law of Education applying in the island, the Vatican Council, and the visits of clergy on their way to/from Rome via Galle.


B) Father Francisco Salvadó’s two letters to Prior Venancio Garrido offer a sad description of the fights, hatred, and conflict existing within the missionary community in the Vicariate of Colombo, and the repercussions that this confrontation had on the Catholic community. Francisco mentions at length the situation of the vicariate and the events that occurred in the years 1864-1867 – the continuous departure of missionaries from the island and the lack of replacements, the consequent difficulties in attending to the needs of the faithful, especially relevant in the case of the education of children, and the fierce confrontation of the Sylvestrines with the rest of the non-Sylvestrine monks to try to get full control of the Vicariate and its missionaries. The panorama that Francisco drew was disheartening. The six pages of his letter dated 8 August 1866 are essential to understand the causes of the conflict, and can serve   to explain why Colombo passed under the control of the Oblates after the reorganization of the vicariates in 1883.


C) Missionary Fr Ramiro Maria Fornelli wrote to Garrido in 1867, just after arriving in Sri-Lanka, forwarding a letter for Martelli and greeting Garrido. Fornelli wrote to Salvado in 1872 about his intention to go to Melbourne because the Sri-Lanka weather was damaging for his health, and asked Salvado details about the Australian weather and way of life of the monks. An unknown person wrote on the remittance of coffee seeds to Martín for New Norcia, while Bishop Ilarione Sillani and Fr Disillse wrote on the remittance of some vestments in 1870.


8.3. Letters from and About the Philippines


Benito Martín spent nine months in the Philippines between 1871 and 1872 trying to collect money for the works of refurbishment of his church. At his return, he wrote a long letter to Salvado narrating his visit and describing his impressions on the country, the natives, and the process of evangelization. Benito was surprised at the success of the Religious Orders at Christianising the natives and said, “It is difficult to find a native that doesn’t know how to read and write in the Philippines, and among the women surely none, and, moreover, these know how to weave some fabrics of unbeatable fineness. A characteristic of the Philippines, a thing that surprised me and made me very happy, is the almost exaggerated fondness and ability that they have for Music. Pianos, harmoniums, harps (these mostly for women) and any class of instrument can be found in the house of any simple man. There is no church or village, not even the smallest one, without a brass band, and most of them have a complete orchestra, and they don’t get tired of playing all day long.” However, the degree of degeneration reached by the religious priests, except for the Dominicans, shocked Benito,




The Governor General of the Philippines, José De La Gándara, wrote a letter to the bishops and provincials of the Orders operating in the Philippines on 28 April 1868 enclosing a copy of the decree of the Government authorising Rosendo Salvado to establish a Benedictine noviciate for missionaries in Spain, and requesting them to follow clause no. 8 and send a report on the most suitable territories to give to the Benedictines. Fr Jaime Micalet from Cebu, Fr José Miralles (Provincial Canon of the Franciscans), Fermín Morente (on behalf of the Bishop of New Cáceres), Vicar Juan Osset (on behalf of the bishop of New Segovia), and Melitón Martínez Santa Cruz (Archbishop of Manila) sent their reply. The most interesting letter is the long one by Melitón, who thought that Mindoro Island was the best place to carry out the project because the meek tribe of the Manguianes lived there, and because it would be a way to populate the 3rd largest island in the archipelago and one of the less populated and cultivated. The whole letter is beautiful, but I want to highlight a reference to the Manguianes,




Francisco Martínez, a public officer in the Manila Post Office, wrote to Salvado enclosing a project that he and other Catholics from Manila, from different classes and conditions, had presented to the Archbishop of Manila in May 1867 regarding the spread of the Association of the Holy Childhood in the Philippines; he mentioned that the Archbishop had some doubts, and had sent it confidentially to the central committee of the association in Madrid. Martínez wanted Salvado to read it, and carry it out if he considered it valid. Martínez’s project focused on the creation of orphanages and poor houses, and intended to rescue children not only from the Philippines, but also from China, Vietnam, Japan, and Malaysia. In these cases, there would be an import of orphans or poor children, who would be removed in their early infancy from their areas of origin, settled in purpose-created towns to be Christianised, “civilised” and their souls saved. After reading the 16 pages of the detailed report, it is easy to understand the Archbishop’s hesitation to carry out such a project, since Francisco seemed to mix the principles of the Association with his own vision of what Evangelization meant. Salvado replied to this offer on 24 October 1868, most probably in a negative way.


Fr Simón Garrido, a priest working in Aringay and Venancio Garrido’s cousin, and Fr Agapito Roldán, a childhood friend of Garrido who was working with the Franciscans in Manila, sent some letters to Garrido and Santos Salvado dealing with personal and family matters, the state of Spain, and the sending of donations and photos.




The richness of New Norcia Archive in this period casts lights on a transition period in New Norcia, Western Australia, and Spain, and lays bare the souls of fascinating lay and clergy individuals. The letters from workers and people writing on private matters offer historians working on Genealogy, Daily Life, and History of Mentalities a precious source of information – a short “video-clip” of the life of their authors and of who they were as persons.


Especially abundant are the references to the Aborigines in general, and to specific individuals in particular. This fact can be explained because of Governor Weld’s interest in the material and spiritual improvement of the Aborigines, and because most Catholic priests in Western Australia showed an active interest in evangelizing adults and sending children to the Mission to get educated. Their attitudes reflect the paternalistic policies of the time, despite being well-intentioned and beyond the negativeness characteristic of most politicians and colonists at the time. This period’s correspondence shows different attitudes in the way that Aborigines themselves dealt with the remittance of Aboriginal children to New Norcia – some families, especially those living in urban or semiurban areas were more willing to give their children in exchange for food or money because they could not take care of them or just because they wanted them educated. However, bush Aborigines, especially in the Champion Bay area, showed strong tribal links and unity, they were totally opposed to parting with their children, and they identified the presence of any priest with their children being stolen. The well-intentioned evangelization practises showed many cracks and a lack of understanding of the cultural reality they were dealing with – the preaching and catechization of young teenagers induced many to want to go to the Mission, but many gave up before reaching there, or just after a few days at the Mission, unable and unwilling to leave behind their ways of life. All the references serve to draw a multifaceted Aboriginal reality that reacted differently from regions within the Colony, but also within families and individuals – a proof that they were suffering from a rapid process of acculturation.


Romarategui, De Orbe, Tomás and Gómez’ cases show that the newly-arrived novices had to endure many spiritual and mental troubles – the result of the daily exhausting physical work, the adaptation to a new climatic and social environment, the separation from their social network of support, and the facing of what being a New Norcia missionary demanded at the time. The departure of some novices shows that, sometimes, the postulants left Spain without knowing what it meant to be a religious or a missionary. Others were clearly seeking new opportunities more than serving God, so their lack of vocation appeared immediately, as was the case of De San Miguel. The life at the Mission was also tough for those monks who had lived and worked at New Norcia for years, as we have seen in the cases of those who left (Beleda, Ferrara, Magarolas, or Rotaeche) or those who did not (Sotillos).


The letters received from Europe show the huge social network, lay and ecclesiastical, on which Salvado’s work thrived – he had an army of friends who loved and venerated him, who were always ready to help, anytime, anywhere, anyhow. The correspondence from these bourgeois shows a rejection to the advance of liberal ideas and laicism that the revolutions were establishing. They complained about the materialism of society, the lack of reason and morals of the rulers, and they felt that they were living in an era that preceded the end of the world. Most of those people shared the idea that the Aboriginal savages were more civilised that over-civilised Europeans, while New Norcia was a peaceful oasis and revolutionary Europe a path to hell. In Spain, these feelings mixed with the opposition to the freedom of cults and with a lack of empathy for non-Catholics, as the acrid comments on Protestants and Jews show. The references to the Vatican Council show the many expectations and hopes that both clergy and lay Catholics had of it, the many rumours in circulation, and the joy –generalised among Spanish clergy– regarding the issue of the decree on the infallibility of the Pope.


The information about the failure of El Escorial project in Spain and the Catholic missions in the Philippines and Sri-Lanka show a disheartening view of the ecclesiastical hierarchies (secular and regular) and of the internal fights and interests of the different religious Orders, who had become political parties fighting for power and control over certain areas and places. The letters from Sri-Lanka are a treasure for any historian researching the Vicariate of Colombo in such a troublesome period of its history. Finally, the letters from the Philippines, allow us to understand how some Europeans saw the process of colonization and evangelization in Asia, moved by a wish to save souls jumping over any other human or cultural consideration – reflection of thoughts and feelings widespread in Europe at the time.


    Revisado - Updated: 05/08/2009

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