Montsalvat, Eltham

4.0
#1 of 20 in Classes in Victoria
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 Traveler Rating
126 reviews
Google
4.3
TripAdvisor
  • August 13, 2017
    Went here on a Sunday for a friends birthday. There were 16 of us so always a challenge. We were only able to have a 1 3/4 sitting so by the time we finally got our food it was out the door. Food was ...  more »
  • August 8, 2017
    Back in 1999, this was the venue of choice for my wedding so it will always be a special place for me and my family. The place is filled with local history and there is a story around every corner. A ...  more »
  • July 19, 2017
    Montsalvat was started in the 1930 by Justus Jörgensen and the buildings completed by a genuine, hard-working collective of artists. It is a Heritage-listed collection of beautiful stone and half-timb...  more »
Google
  • Montsalvat was such a beautiful experience. The vast grounds Surrounded by such peaceful & lush gardens, made roaming the property an absolute joy. Seeing the elegant wildlife of a lone peacock, wild ducks & a group of proud geese wondering around freely playing as tour guides greeting all walking the huge grounds. Then seeing all the beautiful art exhibits & proud standing rustic buildings that housed such art. From looking at the beautiful art to looking at the old buildings, which in themselves were part of the art too.. I highly recommend you visit such a lovely experience to be had by all.
  • Absolutely gorgeous place. We went here to have a look for our wedding and just loved it. Unfortunately it wasn't right for us because the dinner room is too skinny for the type of dancing Macedonians do. The terrain is tricky as well. Especially if you're wearing heels. None of the floors were flat or even and between the buildings were steep rocky tracks. Apart from that it really is beautiful.
  • Great day out. We wanted to visit an exebition here, if you have as well I highly recomend you alow a little more time and make explore the grounds well worth it
  • It's absloutely stunning here. Plenty to look at and beautifully surrounded by nature
  • Beautiful venue for a wedding. Heard that the whole package (including venue, refreshments and drinks) was a bit expensive though

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