Hermitage (religious retreat)
Although today's meaning is usually a place where a hermit lives in seclusion from the world, hermitage was more commonly used to mean a settlement where a person or a group of people lived religiously, in seclusion.
Western Christian tradition
A hermitage is a type of monastery. Typically it has a room, or at least a dedicated space, for religious devotion, very basic sleeping quarters and a domestic range, 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 proximity.
Traditionally, hermitages have been located in caves and huts, often in the desert or woods, sometimes abutting monastery buildings of a cenobitic community when there was an exchange of labour 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 gatekeeper. In modern times they are to be found even in large cities and high-rise blocks of flats, depending on the hermit's means.
Examples of hermitages in Western Christian tradition:
- The Grande Chartreuse in Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuse, France, motherhouse of the Carthusian Order.
- New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur, California, United States
- Camaldolese Hermitage in Bielany, Kraków, Poland
- Source: The History of Religious Seclusion, A.S. Brown, 1963
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- Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence, Solitude and Prayer ISBN 0-921440-54-5 (The current 3rd edition)