Beagle Bay’s Hidden Mother of Pearl Gem

In North Western Australia, nestled in the stunning Dampier Peninsula, lies the quaint petite ‘Sacred Heart’ church – also known as the Mother of Pearl Church – tucked away at Beagle Bay. But don’t let the simple outward appearance of this German-inspired church fool you – as it hides the awe-inspiring Mother of Pearl altar, hand-crafted by local Aboriginal women in 1917.

The sacred heart church is only accessible by four-wheel drive

The altar incorporates hundreds of pieces of mother of pearl, cowrie, volute and olive snail shells, creating a unique mosaic that features the tribal symbols of the Nyul Nyul, the Nimanborr and the Bardi peoples, along with symbols with the Christian faith.

Aboriginal groups in Australia were some of the first people to value the power and beauty of pearl shell, harvesting and trading throughout the region for thousands of years. Broome’s pearling industry has steadily grown, and in the 1910’s was known as one of the world’s largest pearling hubs supplying 80% of the world’s pearl shell.

The Broome Sea Pearl Oyster, Pinctada Maxima, is the largest of all pearl oysters, and was driving reason for the regions success. This rare pearl shell was used for many household items, including cutlery handles, buttons, buckles, jewellery and furniture.

Hundreds of pieces of mother of pearl, cowrie, volute and olive snail shells have been incorporated into the Alter.

The Sacred Heart church is celebrating its centenary in 2018 – a year to reflect on its rich history of community, indigenous heritage and local culture in the pearling industry. Only accessible by four-wheel drive – if you’re ever in Broome – it sure is a one-of-a-kind place to add to your bucket list.