The struggles and legacy of the pioneering Jesuits in Australia have been chronicled in a handsome 200-page coffee table book. “The Vine and the Branches: The Fruits of the Sevenhill Mission” tells of the establishment and development of Sevenhill, which is considered the birthplace of the Jesuits in Australia and the start of winemaking in South Australia’s Clare Valley.
The book is the first major publication to draw together the story of the Jesuits at Sevenhill. It was formally launched on December 1, 2016 to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the consecration of the first stage of St Aloysius’ Church by Bishop Laurence Sheil in November 1866.
“The book has uncovered a lot of things for us. We didn’t have a great deal of knowledge. Now, we’ve got it all in one spot. I’ve learned a lot even in the last year about this place,” said Sevenhill Parish Priest Fr Paul Fyfe SJ, who co-authored the book with Fr Michael Head SJ and Paul McKee.
Sevenhill was established by Austrian Jesuits Fr Aloysius Kranewitter and Fr Maximillian Klinkowstrom who arrived in Adelaide in 1848. They had travelled to Australia as chaplains to a group of Austrian Catholics who had fled Europe to escape political and religious oppression. The immigrants settled near the township of Clare and the Jesuits purchased 100 acres of land in 1851, naming it Sevenhill after the Seven Hill district of Rome. There they planted vines to produce sacramental wine for the emerging Catholic parishes around Australia, beginning Sevenhill’s respected tradition of Jesuit winemaking.
The book contains many beautiful historical and contemporary images covering the development of the Sevenhill Cellars, the first winery established in the Clare Valley; St Aloysius Church, described as a magnificent example of Gothic Revival architecture and that includes what is believed to be the only crypt in a parish church in Australia; the College building that was South Australia’s first Catholic secondary school from 1856 to 1886 and is now the Jesuit residence; and the Centre of Ignatian Spirituality, the Jesuit retreat house in the state.
“People say that [Sevenhill] is a very special place that speaks of God, an extraordinary place where you can combine tourism. This place is also essential to Clare Valley and all that happened here,” said Fr Fyfe.
Main image: Sevenhill college and church in the early 1900s