4.20.2011

The Hermitage | Comer Hill | Mt Alverna | New Bight | Cat Island | Bahamas



The Hermitage





The Hermitage is most likely the most interesting and most visited tourist attraction on Cat Island. The Hermitage is located at New Bight and sits atop the 206’ Mount Comer. Not much of a mountain by most standards but in the flat islands of the Bahamas this is a majestic sight as it is the highest point in the Bahamas. There is an arch at the base of the path that leads up to The Hermitage that calls this sight Mt Alverna. I suppose that this is the name given it by Father Jerome, the architect and builder of the Hermitage. The Hermitage is a monument to the faith of one man, John Hawes, known as Father Jerome. Father Jerome was born in 1876, spent five years studying at the Royal Institute of Architecture before entering Lincoln Theological College to become and Anglican Minister. There are accounts that he also spent time as a wagon train driver, a monk, a missionary and a horse breeder. In 1911, Father Jerome went to Rome to study three years for the Catholic Priesthood. After a hurricane in 1908 he came to the Bahamas to rebuild churches with mortar and stone that would withstand tropical weather. He later went to Australia to pursue the callings of his faith as a bush priest but when it came time to retire he chose Cat Island. Father Jerome received permission from the Catholic Bishop in Nassau to retire on Cat Island as a hermit and in 1939 he arrived and surveyed Mt Comer. In 1940 he began construction of The Heritage, a miniature replica of a


European Franciscan Monastery. Father Jerome built the entire structure by himself out of native rock including the Stations of the Cross. He chose a place where he could look to the east and see the cobalt blue of the Atlantic Ocean and to the west where he could gaze upon the emerald and turquoise waters of the banks and a breathtaking 360 degree view of the horizon and Cat Island. Father Jerome lived here until his death at age 80. He is buried beneath The Hermitage that he so lovingly built with his own hands. We were simply awed by the work of this single man to construct The Hermitage, The Stations of the Cross and carve steps into this steep, stone mountain. Father Jerome also built a watershed on the stone faced south side of the building site that pooled the water into a stone cistern dug into the mountain. The visit to this place was educational, spiritual and inspiring. It begs one to ask the question……What monument will my life leave behind to inspire others.
If you decide to visit be sure to wear sturdy shoes for the walk to the base of the mount and to climb the tiny steep stairs up to Hermitage and past The Stations of the Cross. A note of caution, there was an active bee hive the day we visited and one of the bees was very aggressive toward the captain. He said it was because he is so sweet.
Portions of The Hermitage text were taken from Explorer Charts. Guide to the Bahamas, On and Off the Beaten Path as well as local publications.


The works of man are everywhere swallowed up in the immensity of nature.
Henry David Thoreau


More fotos to follow in future when adequate internet service is available.

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