Rosendo Salvado

Rosendo Salvado (1814 – 1900)  missionary, bishop, author
rsDom Rosendo Salvado Rotea OSB was a Benedictine monk, missionary, bishop, author, founder and first Abbot of the Territorial Abbey of New Norcia, in Western Australia.

Rosendo Salvado (1814-1900), Benedictine monk, missionary and author, was born on 1 March 1814 at Tuy, Spain, the son of Peter Salvado and his wife Francisca Rotea. The Salvado was a long-lived and musical family. Wealth at home favoured Salvado’s musical bent, but he pledged his vigour and talent to a higher cause. At 15 he entered the Benedictine abbey of St Martin at Compostela, was clothed in the habit on 24 July 1829, and took his three religious vows a year later.

Salvado was born at Tui, Galicia, Spain, and at the age of 15 entered the Benedictine Abbey of San Martin at Compostela. He was clothed in the habit in 1829 and took his final vows in 1832. In 1835, he was forced to flee to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, after the Anti-Catholic government of Isabella II of Spain decreed the closing of all monasteries and the secularization of monks as a result of the First Carlist War. He was received into the Abbey of Trinità della Cava, near Naples, where he was ordained to the priesthood in February 1839.


Strongly desiring to labor in the foreign missions, his wish was granted after John Brady was consecrated as first Bishop of the Diocese of Perth. With his longtime friend Father Joseph Serra OSB, Salvado sailed from London with the Bishop’s party and landed in Fremantle in January 1846. At Brady’s instruction, Salvado and Serra, alongside a small party of their fellow Benedictines, journeyed deep into the Victoria Plains via ox drawn cart. On 1 March 1846, they founded “The Central Mission” in the midst of the bush, intending to convert the Aborigines to Catholicism. This was later renamed “New Norcia,” after the birthplace of St. Benedict.

The priests soon established relations with the Aborigines, but conditions at the Mission proved so harsh that soon only Salvado and Serra remained. Salvado was an accomplished musician and in the first year of the mission he travelled back to Perth and on 21 May 1846 gave a well received piano recital in tattered robes in the hall of the Courthouse. The recital raised much needed funds for provisioning the new mission. Then, in 1848, Serra was appointed Bishop of Port Essington in the Northern Territory and later to Coadjutor of the Diocese of Perth. In 1849, Salvado sailed for Europe to raise funds for the Mission, accompanied by two young Aboriginal boys, Joseph Conaci and Francis Dirimera. Salvado was consecrated Bishop of Port Essington in August of that year, much against his will, as he strongly desired to return to New Norcia. After Port Essington was abandoned, however, he was left as a Bishop without a See.

While waiting permission to return to Australia, he wrote and published Memorie Storiche dell’ Australia in March 1851. This book, which chronicled the beginnings of the Mission and his relations with the Aborigines, went through multiple printings in Italian, Spanish, and French. It was published in English in 1977.

Later life

He returned to Australia in 1853, accompanied by a large number of priests and monks bound for the Australian Missions and especially for New Norcia. For four years he administered the Diocese of Perth during Bishop Serra’s absence in Europe. He returned to New Norcia in 1857. In the following years he shifted the focus of the Mission to serving the White settlers who were pouring into the area. In 1866 he was nominated as Bishop of Perth, but convinced Vatican authorities that his true vocation lay with aborigines. In 1867, he was appointed “Lord Abbot” and the Mission was upgraded to an independent Abbey by Papal decree. He died in 1900 at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, while on a visit to Rome. His body was returned to New Norcia three years later and buried in a tomb of Carrara marble behind the high altar of the Abbey church.


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