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Montsalvat, Eltham

(3.8/5 based on 110+ reviews on the web)
Montsalvat, founded by Justus Jörgensen, is Australia’s oldest artists’ colony and home to practising artists. It remains to this day a working not-for-profit arts centre administered by a board of trustees. Set in 12 acres of established gardens, the historic buildings include charming mudbrick cottages and the impressive Great Hall.

In 1934 the Jörgensens purchased the land that would later become Montsalvat. Justus Jörgensen was a trained architect and student of the artist Max Meldrum. He married a medical student, Lillian Smith, in 1924 and their subsequent travels around Europe had a profound influence on the architecture of Montsalvat.

Whilst the inspiration for Montsalvat came from one man, its creation was the work of many hands. Among those who followed Jörgensen to Montsalvat were Mervyn Skipper, his wife Lena and their children, Helen, Sonia and Matcham. Arthur Munday, Lesley Sinclair, Sue Vanderkelen, George Chalmers, Ian Roberston, Helen Lempriere, John Smith, John Busst and Myra Skipper also lived and worked at Montsalvat in those early years. For a more detailed history of who has lived and worked at Montsalvat please click here.

Many of the buildings at Montsalvat are made via a process called pisé de terre, or rammed earth, using soil from the site. However the iconic Great Hall is built from a reef of mudstone which was uncovered in the grounds during excavation. Many of the other building materials used were sourced from wreckers’ and builders’ yards across Melbourne.

With the outbreak of World War Two, the collective energies at Montsalvat were redirected and Montsalvat became largely self-sufficient, with a market garden, poultry farm and small dairy. Several more buildings were hastily built for the farm – the dairy, stables, silos and storehouses belong to this period. In the late 1990’s the Barn studio was burnt down, leaving only the fireplace standing. The Barn Gallery, which now serves as the main entrance to Montsalvat was built in its place.

Today Montsalvat is a thriving arts community with members of the Jörgensen and Skipper families still living and working in the grounds. Montsalvat also enjoys an active exhibitions, concert and artists in residence program.

What’s in a name?

The name Montsalvat features in both German and English mythology. Richard Wagner, the famous German composer, tells of a distant land called ‘Montsalvat’ in his opera Lohengrin. Montsalvat also features in the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. In both of these stories Montsalvat is the location of the fabled Holy Grail.

Montsalvat’s own legend has it that Sue Vanderkelen first called this place Montsalvat, declaring that it meant “mount of salvation”.
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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • restaurant: Breakfast ok but toast not toasted! Also, wanted to pay 50/50 on credit cards even eftpos refused this time!Unlikely to visit again because as said few weeks earlier they did lunch 50/50. ...  more »
  • Just wanted a quick stroll after eating breakfast at the cafe. Turns out they want $14 per person. I get that money is required for up keep, a small donation would be reasonable if you weren't dining ...  more »
  • Beautiful old buildings and grounds. Was a little disappointed that we couldn't get into the great hall as there was a wedding on so I'd suggest ringing before hand to check availability. Little old c...  more »
Google
  • Always love coming here. Tones of Europe without having to leave Melbourne! There's plenty to explore. The kids will love the castle. So many nooks and crannies. Be sure to stop and watch a guitar being made, or watch the jeweler make rings etc. The architecture is amazing.
  • Very interesting, lots of nooks and crannies to explore. The buildings are not something I've seen before as influence from overseas. The gardens have many flowers and other plants that as you look you see more of. I can see why weddings are held here, beautiful backdrop for photos. At first I didn't see the benefit of paying to go in but there is much more to look at than it seems, it is quite expansive and there's more around each corner.
  • Very rude staff ! If you want to take photos here, prepare to pay from 300-500 AUD per hour. My friends and I came there from far away, an hour drive. We paid for the tickets, came in to tour the place. After 5-10 mins, a receptionist followed us whereever we go and asked us to stop taking photos just because we have a camera gears and my friends were dressed up "too nice and professional". We ended up leaving due to her rude tonnes and gestures so that was 2 hrs driving back and forth for nothing. Thanks for wasting my time.
  • Melbourne's most enchanting location. A must see for everyone in melbourne. It places you back in time...and makes you feel magical. Can't wait to revisit
  • Always worth a wander in any season, the dilapidation of many of the buildings only adding to the charm. Worth considering the annual membership, and the regular exhibitions are often of a very high standard.