In 1935, seven Sisters came to South Australia from the Carmelite Monastery in Kew, Victoria, bringing their tradition of contemplative life to Adelaide. The Adelaide Carmelite Monastery was established in the former Roman Catholic Archbishops residence and was later expanded to include a larger chapel, accommodations and imposing gardens.
The history of Discalced Carmelite Nuns extends back to the 1500s. Monasteries are referred to as ‘Carmels’. ‘Carmel’ is a biblical word, derived from the Hebrew ‘karem’ meaning a ‘vineyard’ or ‘garden’. When the suffix ‘el’ is added for the Divine name, it takes on the meaning of ‘the garden of the Lord.’ ‘Carmel’ is also a biblical symbol for beauty and fruitfulness. Essentially, each of the Carmelite Monasteries were designed to be ‘gardens of the Lord’.
The original section of the building was designed in the early 1900s by Adelaide architect Albert Conrad for use as the Roman Catholic Archbishops residence. Conrad seems to have been commissioned mainly by the Catholic Church and his work ranged from churches and chapels to schools and residences (although one of his notable exceptions to this is “West’s Coffee Palace” in Hindley Street which still stands today). The Archbishop’s residence at the Roman Catholic Monastery was designed in a ‘modern domestic Gothic style of architecture, rugged and picturesque’. (http://www.architectsdatabase.unisa.edu.au/arch_full.asp?Arch_ID=11). The original stone and brick residence with its imposing bell tower still stands today but various additions over the years have compromised the building. It remains listed as a State Heritage Place.
In 2009, the Carmelite Monastery was sold and the Discalced Carmelite Nuns relocated to a property in Semaphore. The remains of seventeen sisters were exhumed from the graveyard on the Glen Osmond site and re-interred at Centennial Park cemetery. The sweeping grounds of the former monastery will now be transformed to incorporate a 100 bed nursing home. At this stage there are no plans available for the former Carmelite Monastery and how this may be incorporated into the future use of the site.