Montsalvat, Eltham

4.1
#2 of 34 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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Montsalvat Reviews
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TripAdvisor Traveler Rating 4.0
132 reviews
Google
4.4
TripAdvisor
  • A lovely little place with plenty of art work to see, paintings and sculptures, all done on site in their studios. There is also a quant vegetable and flower patch. The out buildings are made to look ...  more »
  • Our fore fathers and the many people who made Eltham what it is today either worked here, studied here or become legends in the Arts ,mud brick building and contemporary visionary designers of houses,...  more »
  • This is a must see. We didn’t expect to find such a treasure. Very interesting history and seems much older than it is. A touch of Europe in Victoria. Beautiful venue for wedding or other special occa...  more »
Google
  • Beautiful place! So rich is history and culture. The grounds are so magnificent that you can spend hours exploring. Highly reccomend a visit.
  • This place is the real deal, kinda like the Taj Mahal down under! some people really put a lot of time in constructing a very beautiful collection of buildings. The art is great too... Didn't try the food at the two restaurants, next time.
  • Had my wedding ceremony in the Upper Gallery and it was just beautiful. Have received so many compliments on the ceremony and the location and just the little details by the staff. A big thank you to Rebecca who helped us finalise everything and coordinate the big day, right up to making sure my dress looked nice before I walked down the aisle. Highly recommend.
  • - Nice Spot in amongst the wilderness - Plenty of cool stuff to see with the old buildings and the displays by local artists - Cool food options as well with the cafe and the wood fired pizzas - Would definitely reccomend a visit in the area
  • Lovely grounds, perfect to spend the day with the family on the lawn or wander around the galleries at your leisure. The cafe was cosy and the food was lovely

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15 days in Greater Melbourne BY A USER FROM TANZANIA January, culture, outdoors, romantic, popular & hidden gems PREFERENCES: January, culture, outdoors, romantic ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular & hidden gems PACE: Medium 12 days in Greater Melbourne BY A USER FROM HUNGARY August, relaxing, beaches, popular PREFERENCES: August, relaxing, beaches ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 6 days in Greater Melbourne SEE PLAN May, culture, outdoors, relaxing, beaches, historic sites, museums, hidden gems PREFERENCES: May, culture, outdoors, relaxing, beaches, historic sites, museums ATTRACTION STYLE: Hidden gems PACE: Medium 15 days in Greater Melbourne BY A USER FROM MALAYSIA June, kids, culture, outdoors, relaxing, beaches, historic sites, shopping, slow & easy, popular PREFERENCES: June, kids, culture, outdoors, relaxing, beaches, historic sites, shopping ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Slow & easy 12 days in Greater Melbourne BY A USER FROM MALAYSIA December, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches, popular PREFERENCES: December, culture, outdoors, relaxing, romantic, beaches ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 14 days in Greater Melbourne BY A USER FROM SRI LANKA December, culture, outdoors, historic sites, museums, shopping, popular PREFERENCES: December, culture, outdoors, historic sites, museums, shopping ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium 7 days in Greater Melbourne BY A USER FROM MALAYSIA May, culture, outdoors, historic sites, popular PREFERENCES: May, culture, outdoors, historic sites ATTRACTION STYLE: Popular PACE: Medium
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