On 1 March 1846, a Benedictine mission to the local aborigines was started about 8 km to the north, led by the two Spanish Benedictines, Rosendo Salvado and Joseph Serra. Within a year the mission was moved to where the town is today, and on 1 March 1847 the foundation stone of the monastery was laid. The place was named New Norcia, after Norcia in Italy, the birthplace of St Benedict.
New Norcia is the only monastic town in Australia. A ground station for the European Space Agency is located 8 km south of the town.
New Norcia is famous for its bread, which was originally milled and baked in a wood-fired oven by the monks. It is still made in the town, and in the same way, but by New Norcia Bakeries, a private company operating under an agreement with the Benedictine Community.