Sevenhill was established by Austrian Jesuits who fled their country to escape political and religious oppression.
Two Jesuit priests, Father Aloysius Kranewitter and Father Maximillian Klinkowstrom, travelled to Australia as chaplains to a group of 130 Catholics led by Franz Weikert, a Silesian farmer, whose vision was to establish a community in South Australia which could enjoy religious freedom.
The immigrants settled near the township of Clare and the Jesuits, impressed by the fertility of the local soil, purchased 100 acres of land in 1851, naming it Sevenhill after the Seven Hill district of Rome.
Sevenhill Cellars was established in the following years to provide sacramental wine in the emerging Catholic parishes around Australia, beginning Sevenhill’s respected tradition of Jesuit winemaking. The underground cellar was excavated by hand and the winery building was constructed from stone quarried on the property.
There have been seven Jesuit winemakers at Sevenhill, the most recent of whom is Jesuit Winemaker Emeritus, Brother John May, SJ, who still works closely with the winemaking team and is a passionate advocate of Sevenhill and the Clare Valley.
Local stone was also used to build Sevenhill’s two other significant religious landmarks. Construction of St Aloysius’ Church started in 1864 and, after several delays because of funding shortfalls, was substantially completed in 1875. The church has the only crypt below a parish church in Australia, which is the final resting place for 41 Jesuits. The College building, which operated as South Australia’s first Catholic secondary school from 1856-1886, was built in 1854 and also housed the Jesuit community and trainees. It remains the Jesuits’ home and is also hosts retreat s and programs of spiritual awareness.