Arcadia Monastery

 Sketch of the Monastery
(artwork Louise Palisi)

The monstery has been built in three stages. Here we will give you an overview of  its history and some details of the more interesting aspects.

 The 1962 wing
The 1962 Wing
(Photo Monstery Archive)

The first wing of the monastery was opened in1962. This contained the refectory and kitchen, temporary chapel, bedrooms and basement.

Cloister gardens
Front Wing
(photo Theo Robinson OSB)

When the front wing, comprising chapter room, parlours, temporary library and additional bedrooms, was built in 1967, the chapel was also transferred here and the former chapel space became the community recreation area.

 Library, Cloister, and Chapel
Library, Cloister, and Chapel
(photo Theo Robinson OSB)

The chapel and library were completed in 1980. Subsequently the second temporary chapel area became guest rooms and the former library an office and infirmary. This third wing drastically modified the original plan which was designed for a larger community and a pre-Vatican II liturgy.

 Chapel interior
Chapel Interior
(Photo Monastery Archive)


The chapel was opened and consecrated by His Eminence Sir James Cardinal Freeman on 11 July 1980. The architect, Stuart Whitelaw, of Arcadia, describes as follows the inspiration of this building which, with its two walls of glass, integrates nature and worship:

The chapel is sited at the junction of tree and field, forest and mountain, intimacy and infinity. The entrance axis towards the cross window splits these aspects, heigntening awareness of each as well as the cross window.
The plan form of the chapel is cruciform with a central altar. This evolved from both the axis and approach geometry as well as the desire for a spacious yet intimate atmosphere. The leadlight windows are framed within simply shaped, fairly dark gabled apses that allow them to be viewed in isolation as well as within the context os the building.
The central columns surrounding the altar are a deliberate atempt at avoiding structural virtuosity and to keep the roof "earth connected", whilst at the same time they serve to lead the eye to the glass pyramid at the apex.
The interplay of solid and void, colour, light and everchanging mountain views have endowed this chapel with a richness that belies its simple form.

Stained Glass Windows

The stained glass windows were formerly in the chapel of the Benedictine Nuns at Rydalmere, NSW, subsequently taken over by the monks. When they too left and the buildings demolished, the windows were dismantled and stored in the packing shed at Arcadia.

Unique among these are the "Dunbar Windows", situated in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel and amongst the oldest stained glass windows in the country. They were made by the firm of John Hardman of Birmingham, England in 1860 and originally erected in St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney by the Hon. Daniel Egan MLC in memory of his wife and two step children drowned in the wreck of the Dunbar on the South Head of Port Jackson in 1857. They survived the fire which destroyed St Mary's in 1865 and are now in their third home. 

The "Wallis Windows" in the entrance 
vestibule are the work of John Ashwin 
of Sydney who was also responsible for 
the stained glass in the Queen Victoria 
Building, Sydney. They represent St 
Walburga and other Benedictine women 
and men "coming from England to convert 
the Germans" and were donated as a 
memorial to Mother Walburga Wallis, 
Prioress, who died in 1902. The windows 
in the Lady Chapel represent the Presentation 
of the Lord in the Temple and the meeting 
between Saints Benedict and Scholastica. 
The portrait medallions forming the cross 
window and in the centre panels of the glass 
walls represent Benedictines associated with 
Australia, firstly as Vicars Apostolic in Mauritius (Bishops Slater and Morris), and then in Sydney (Archbishops Polding and Vaughan, Bishop Davis and Vicar General Ullathorne).
The Wallis stained glass windows
(Photo Michael Kelly OSB)

Stations of the Cross

These were hand carved by one of the Benedictine nuns formerly at Yepoon, Queensland and represent a scriptural cycle of the Way of the Cross, culminating in the Resurrection.

The Icon - Madonna Enthroned

Madonna icon
(Photo Alex Brown)
This was painted by Sydney artist Art van Ewijk in the fourteenth century Gothic style. 

The Pipe Organ

The organ was built by T. Atterton at 
Leighton Buzzard, England in 1893. 
Restoration was by the organbuilder 
S.J. Laurie, Melbourne, from whom 
it was purchased in 1995. It has eleven 
stops over two manuals and pedal. The 
cabinet is richly carved English Oak and 
encases the complex mechanical action 
in a minimum of space.

The organ
(Photo Michael Kelly OSB)

The Belfry

 The bell was brought to Australia by Bishop Davis and the steel tower, constructed and donated by the Transfield Organisation, replicates the design of the chapel.

The Tasmanian Oak wood panelling and  ceiling of the chapel were constructed by local builders S. Zandt and G. Rieger.


The library contains some 14,000 volumes with strengths in Monasticism, Patristics, Liturgy and Scripture. Apart from the monastic community it is used by local parishioners, retreatants and occasionally university staff and students. It is a member of the Australian and New Zealand Theological Library Association and contributes to the Australasian Union List of Serials in Theological Collections and to the Australian Libraries Gateway database. Organisation of the collection began in 1965 and, after two temporary locations, it is now housed in the permanent library built in 1980. Classification is Dewey and Lynn-Peterson and cataloguing is automated using ITS for Windows which supports the Z39.50 protocol.
Monograph loans are made to approved borrowers or through Inter Library Loan. Consultation is by appointment. Wheelchair access is available.

 Library interior
Monastery Library
(Photo Theo Robinson OSB)


St Benedict's Monastery Library
121 Arcadia Rd
Arcadia NSW 2159

Phone:  02 9653 1159
Fax:      02 9653 1883

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