Hospitality in the Eternal City: Domus Australia

05 Dec 2019

By Jamie O'Brien

The Domus Australia has been designed as a home-away-from-home for Australian pilgrims staying in the Eternal City of Rome. Photo: Sourced.

By Eric Martin and Jamie O’Brien

Though Israel, the birthplace and home of Jesus, is the number one destination for Christian pilgrims, the Eternal City, seat of the supreme Pontiff – the Bishop of Rome – and the Holy Catholic Church, is also a destination of choice for those in search of a personal, spiritual transformation.

A pilgrimage is: a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about the self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life.

The well-appointed rooms of the Domus Australia guarantee a comfortable stay for pilgrims to the Eternal City. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

And though in modern minds such journeys are usually associated with the medieval faithful of Europe, wending their way to the Holy Land, pilgrimage is a religious practice that is alive and well in the 21st Century, one that is experienced by thousands of Australians each year.

And for pilgrims abroad in a strange land, the modern facilities of the Domus Australia offer a touch of sophistication and a taste of home for Australians who have come to pay their respects at the Vatican.

Established by the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney, with the support of other Australian dioceses including the Archdiocese of Perth, the Archdiocese of Melbourne and the Diocese of Lismore, the superbly restored historic building and chapel was originally the Seminary of the Marist Fathers, vacated in 2005 and purchased in 2008 as the spiritual home away from home for Australian clergy and pilgrims.

“It’s a very welcoming, warm and friendly place to come, for anybody really, but certainly for us, who come from such a long way away in Australia, to come to a place where you can feel at home and feel accepted, feel welcomed; and then launch out into all the wonderful things that Rome has to offer,” Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said about the Domus.

“I’d really encourage people to come here if they possibly can and experience what it means to stay here at Domus Australia.”

The rich and varied classical artworks on display at the Domus were restored by Roman artists before the Hotel’s opening. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

The hotel’s design is based on the typical Roman Villa, with the multi-storey building encircling a cool, spacious courtyard, complete with traditional fountain; which is a popular setting for smaller special events. The roof-top terrace provides similar functionality and can cater for up to 150 guests.

Extensive reconstruction and renovation works were carried out to restore the building to its former glory and the Domus is also home to a number of 19th and 20th century artworks, which have been beautifully and faithfully restored by a team of specialist Roman art restorers.

Australian artist Paul Newton is responsible for the execution of all of the new paintings commissioned for the hotel’s chapel, the Chapel of Our Lady of Pompeii and St Peter Chanel, which depict aspects of the story of the Catholic Faith in Australia, from our nation’s beginnings as a penal colony through to today.

The paintings include portraits of Church pioneers such as Caroline Chisholm, Father John Therry, Blessed Mary MacKillop and founder of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Archbishop Bede Polding.

The Domus was officially opened by Pope Benedict XVI in the presence of the Archbishops and Bishops of Australia. Photo: Jamie O’Brien.

The Domus Australia was opened and blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2011, in the presence of the Archbishops and Bishops of Australia who were in Rome for their Ad Limina Visit, along with the Australian Ambassador to the Holy See and other distinguished guests.

Mass is celebrated in the Australian vernacular each day for guests and the staff speak English, with extra touches of home, such as a full Aussie breakfast and tea and coffee served just as we like it, discreetly added to the hotel’s offering.

In order to experience the Eternal City without huge crowds, pilgrims might prefer to plan their visits in December or January. The Archdiocese of Sydney coordinates pilgrimages tours throughout the year.

For further information please contact the Rome Pilgrimages team on 1800 753 959 or visit, or contact us via email at

There are 33 rooms available and inquiries should be made to at