||This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2009)|
Anchorite or anchoret (female: anchoress; adj. anchoritic; from Ancient Greek: ἀναχωρητής, "one who has retired from the world", from the verb ἀναχωρέω, anachōreō, signifying "to withdraw", "to retire") denotes someone who, for religious reasons, withdraws from secular society so as to be able to lead an intensely prayer-oriented, ascetic, and—circumstances permitting—Eucharist-focused life. As a result, anchorites are usually considered to be a type of religious hermit, although there are distinctions in their historical development and theology.
The anchoritic life is one of the earliest forms of Christian monastic living. Popularly it is perhaps best known from the surviving archeological and literary evidence of its existence in medieval England. In the Roman Catholic Church today it is one of the "Other Forms of Consecrated Life" and governed by the same norms as the consecrated eremitic life.
Historical development 
Middle Ages 
The anchoritic life became widespread during the early and high Middle Ages. Examples of the dwellings of anchorites and anchoresses survive. They tended to be a simple cell (also called anchorhold), built against one of the walls of the local village church. In the Germanic lands from at least the tenth century it was customary for the bishop to say the office of the dead as the anchorite entered her cell, to signify the anchorite's death to the world and rebirth to a spiritual life of solitary communion with God and the angels. Sometimes, if the anchorite was walled up inside the cell, the bishop would put his seal upon the wall to stamp it with his authority. But some anchorites freely moved between their cell and the adjoining church.
Hearing Mass and receiving Holy Communion was possible through a small, shuttered window in the common wall facing the sanctuary, called a "hagioscope" or "squint". There was also a small window facing the outside world, through which the inhabitant would receive food and other necessities and, in turn, could provide spiritual advice and counsel to visitors, as the anchorites gained a reputation for wisdom.
Anchorites were supposed to remain in their cell in all eventualities. Some were even burned in their cells, which they refused to leave even when pirates or other attackers were looting and burning their towns. They ate frugal meals, and spent their days both in contemplative prayer and interceding on behalf of others. Anchorite hymns such as Ignus Lux Sanctum, praising the sanctity of light in all its forms, were the inspiration for Athanasius Kircher's research on optics and magnetism. Anchorites' bodily waste was managed by means of a chamber pot. An idea of their daily routine can be gleaned from an anchoritic Rule known as Ancrene Wisse.
One very well known medieval anchoress is Julian of Norwich, whose writings have left a lasting impression on Christian spirituality. All Saints' Church in King's Lynn, Norfolk, still has its original 12th century Anchorhold, intact and still very much in use during the daily worship of the church.
Another well known anchorite is Christine Carpenter (?-?), who submitted a petition in 1329 and was granted permission to become the Anchoress of Shere Church (aka. The Church of St. James), in the Borough of Guildford, England. She received her food and drink from friends and family through a metal grating on the outside wall. In the interior of the church a quatrefoil shape was cut out of the wall through which she could receive the Eucharist and a squint (or hagioscope) for her use for prayer and reflection. She left her cell, and in 1332 she applied again and was granted permission to be re-enclosed.
Notable people 
See also 
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Anchorites|
- Book of the First Monks
- Christian monasticism
- Consecrated life
- ἀναχωρητής. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at Perseus Project
- ἀναχωρέω. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at Perseus Project
- BBB Radio 4: Making History – Anchorites
- The Code of Canon Law 1983, canon 603
- Tom Licence, Hermits and Recluses in English Society 950-1200, (Oxford, 2011), pp. 87-9
- Licence, Hermits and Recluses, pp. 123, 120.
- Licence, Hermits and Recluses, pp. 158-72
- Licence, Hermits and Recluses, pp. 77-9
- The Anchoress on line . Q&As Accessed October 2008
- Ancrene Wisse
- Revelations of Divine Love
- The Anchorhold at All Saints'
-  University of Saint Thomas–Saint Paul, MN "Petition to Become an Anchoress", http://courseweb.stthomas.edu, 2003, 2012-04-22
-  "History of Shere", sheredelight.com, 2011, 2012-04-22
Historical development 
- Diocese of Kerry - Skellig Michael
- The Anchorhold at All Saints Church, King's Lynn, Norfolk
- Chapter 1 of The Rule of Saint Benedict re: Anchorites
- The Way of an Anchoress
- Anchorite Cell at St Luke's Church in Duston
- Marsha, Anchoritic Spirituality in Medieval England: The Form, the Substance, the Rule
- Rotha Mary Clay, Full Text plus illustrations, The Hermits and Anchorites of England.
- Rotha Mary Clay, The Hermits and Anchorites of England, Chapter VII: Anchorites in Church and Cloister
- Ancrene Wisse, Introduction
- digitised copy of a British Library manuscript of the Ancrene Wisse, a rule for anchoresses written in the 13th century