Carmelite’s National Treasure
It has been called “a national treasure” but for well over 100 years it has been accessible to just a few.
Now that has changed. The Carmelite Library – Australia’s finest specialised collection of books and journals in the area of Christian spirituality and mysticism – has a permanent home in Middle Park.
And it welcomes both “the scholar and the seeker” to make use of its rich resources.
The Carmelite friars arrived in Australia from Ireland in the early 1880s and brought with them the nucleus of today’s Carmelite Library.
Among its treasures were the Ceremoniale of 1616 which guided the priest through the intricacies of celebrating mass according to the Order’s ancient Rite of the Holy Sepulchre which dated to the time of the Crusades; and the Carmelite Constitutions of 1625 (reprinted 1721) then still in force.
In 1928 the Carmelites began training their Australian novices and students in Melbourne rather than send them to Ireland. An academic library began to develop at Whitefriars House of Studies, which was first in Kew and from 1937 in Donvale.
It included the textbooks and other works required by the students and their professors across a broad philosophical and theological range. By the 1980s financial pressures, the development of new theological centres and the Order’s changing educational strategy prompted a change of policy and focus.
In 1985 it was decided to discontinue collecting across the whole range of theological disciplines and today the library is concentrated in three areas closely associated with the life and spirit of the Order. These are:
- Carmelitana: all aspects of the life, history and spiritual tradition of the Order;
- Spirituality: the Christian spiritual and mystical tradition, both historical and contemporary, and its links to other world spiritual traditions;
- Mariology: the theological study of the Virgin Mary.
The Rare Book Collection includes about 300 pre-1800 titles, most of them with a Carmelite connection. The oldest book, a controversial work against Lutheranism by the Italian Carmelite Giovanni Maria Verrato, dates from 1538.
In 2003 the Library contained some 30,000 books and other items and is housed in the heritage Carmelite Hall next to the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Middle Park, where the Carmelites have ministered since 1882.
The Carmelites know the library requires further development if it is to realise its potential as a cultural, intellectual and spiritual resource for the Australian community. The first task is to find the funding to create an online public access catalogue and in the long term to establish an endowment fund to ensure the library’s mission in the future.
They are appealing for financial assistance from those who share their vision of a centre for study and reflection on the great Christian spiritual traditions. Donations are tax deductible and details are available from the librarian.
You can find The Carmelite Library beside the church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel at 214 Richardson Street, Middle Park, Victoria 3206.
Phillip Harvey (Librarian) and assistants Susan Southall Simone Pereira, Graham Dudley and Peter Maddock provide care and support in the Carmelite Library. You are most welcome to visit the Library to browse. You can also become a Library member and borrow from our extensive collection.
You can visit the Library website by clicking here.
You can access the Library catelogue by clicking here. (Use Internet Explorer)
You are welcome to visit the Carmelite Library at the following times:
Tuesday 12.00pm - 8.00pm
Wednesday, Thursday & Friday 9.00am - 5.00pm
Tel: 9682 8553