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Griver, Martin (1814–1886)

by E. Perez

This article was published:

Bishop Martin Griver

Bishop Martin Griver

New Norcia Archives

Martin Griver (1814-1886), Roman Catholic bishop, was born on 11 November 1814 in Barcelona, Spain, son of James Griver and his wife Teresa Coni. He studied humanities and theology in Barcelona, won an honours degree in philosophy and entered the School of Medicine (M.B., B.S., 1845). On 17 December 1847 he became a priest and ministered in his native town.

In 1849 Griver was recommended to Bishop Rosendo Salvado and joined the missionaries gathered in Barcelona for service in Western Australia. In December he landed at Fremantle with Dr Joseph Serra and his band of monks, but opposition to Serra by one of the party on the voyage became on shore a public struggle to prevent the monks from joining the mission at New Norcia, and to have Serra ousted from the leadership. Griver had hoped to work with Salvado in the new northern diocese of Port Victoria but after some difficulty led the monks instead to New Norcia. Though appointed superior by Serra, Griver was soon sent with seventeen brothers to Guildford where they arrived after an arduous and difficult journey on foot. From Guildford he went to Serra's new foundation, New Subiaco, and then to Perth. In 1851 he had to handle a delicate situation which had arisen from the unexpected return of Bishop John Brady, and his marked difference of opinion with Serra. Griver then had only a scanty knowledge of English but displayed great competence, courage and an edifying humility in difficult circumstances. He had wanted to join the Benedictines but, because of Serra's mismanagement, did not become a professed monk. He discharged his priestly office with zeal and prudence in Perth and Fremantle, travelled all over the country and in 1858 visited the colony's furthest outposts, from Albany in the south and Geraldton in the north. Many benefited from his knowledge of medicine on these tours.

When Serra went to Europe in 1859 Griver was left in charge of the administration of the diocese and was confirmed in this appointment in 1862. His first duty was to separate the New Norcia Mission from Perth. Indefatigable in the discharge of his apostolate, he devoted special attention to the welfare of convicts and poor and orphan children. Under his prudent management and with the aid of Bishop Salvado's intervention with the governor, the long-debated question of education and independent schools at last found a satisfactory solution in 1871 when assistance was provided to all schools in the colony. His greatest joy and glory was to complete in January 1865 the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Perth. Serra had collected abundant funds and valuable gifts for it in Europe and Benedictine friends provided its design and promised adequate labour for its construction; Griver had invited Bishop Salvado of New Norcia to solemnize the laying of its foundation stone in 1863.

In 1869 Griver went to Rome where in 1870 he attended the Vatican Council and was consecrated bishop of Tloa in partibus; his title was changed to Perth after Brady died in 1871. Since the Benedictine monks had retired to their New Norcia mission, Griver had to recruit priests for the growing colony. To this task and the welfare of his diocese he applied himself whole-heartedly, visiting Rome in 1882 and the Plenary Council of Australasia at Sydney in 1885. His death in Perth on 1 November 1886 was widely lamented. Kind and considerate in all his dealings with others, he himself followed the ascetic and austere life of the anchorite. When his body was being prepared for burial at St Mary's Cathedral, it was found that he had been wearing two small wooden crosses, the nails of which were deeply embedded in his flesh.

Select Bibliography

  • P. F. Moran, History of the Catholic Church in Australasia (Syd, 1895)
  • J. T. Reilly, Reminiscences of Fifty Years' Residence in Western Australia (Perth, 1903)
  • Centenary of the Catholic Church in Western Australia (Perth, 1946)
  • J. T. McMahon, One Hundred Years: Five Great Church Leaders (Perth, 1946)
  • B. C. Cohen, A History of Medicine in Western Australia (Perth, 1965)
  • Perth Gazette, 4, 18 Jan 1850
  • Inquirer (Perth), 2 Mar 1870
  • D. A. Mossenson, A History of State Education in Western Australia (Ph.D. thesis, University of Western Australia, 1962)
  • M. Griver papers and letters (Roman Catholic Archives, Perth, and New Norcia).

Citation details

E. Perez, 'Griver, Martin (1814–1886)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 27 June 2022.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2022

Bishop Martin Griver

Bishop Martin Griver

New Norcia Archives

Life Summary [details]


11 November, 1814
Barcelona, Spain


1 November, 1886 (aged 71)
Perth, Western Australia, Australia

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