What is a Hermitage?
Quoting the monks of St Joseph’s Abbey in the USA, “A hermitage is a place where a hermit lives in seclusion from the world; the term is also used to mean a settlement where a person or a group of people live religiously, in seclusion.
“In the Christian tradition the eremitic life is an early form of monastic living that preceded the monastic life in the cenobium. The Rule of St Benedict lists hermits among four kinds of monks. In addition to hermits that are members of religious orders, modern Roman Catholic
“Church law (canon 603) recognizes also consecrated hermits under the direction of their diocesan bishop as members of the Consecrated Life. In Western Christian tradition a hermitage is a type of monastery. Typically it has a room, or at least a dedicated space, for religious devotion and very basic sleeping and living quarters, suitable for the ascetic way of living of the inhabitant. Depending on the work of the hermit, premises such as a studio, workshop or chapel may be attached or sited in close proximity.
“Traditionally hermitages have been located in caves and huts, often in the desert or woods, sometimes abutting the monastery buildings of a cenobitic community when there was an exchange of labor and provisions. In medieval times they may have been endowed by the Lord or Lady of a manor in return for prayers for their family, or in city dwellings, e.g. inside the city gate as remuneration for services rendered as a gate keeper.
“Today an increasing number of Christian faithful feel again a vocation to live the eremitic life, whether in the remote countryside or in a city in stricter separation from the world, without having passed through life in a monastic community first. Bearing in mind that the meaning of the eremitic vocation is the Desert Theology of the Old Testament (i.e., the 40 years wandering in the desert that was meant to bring about a change of heart), it may be said that the desert of the urban hermit is that of their heart, purged through kenosis to be the dwelling place of God alone.”