This is what happens when eccentric architects join the priesthood.  You end up with a modern-day medieval monastery that looks like it belongs in Europe rather than a tropical island.  But you also get some of the most solid and beautiful churches in the Bahamas.

Cat Island Hermitage

John Hawes arrived in the Bahamas in 1908 as a newly-ordained minister of the Church of England.  While traveling throughout the islands, he noticed many churches with severe storm damage – all wooden.  Using his background in architecture (which he studied before switching to theology) he helped the Bahamian people build churches that would withstand the most severe blows (think of the three little pigs if you need to – he had the churches made of stone).  Many of these churches still stand today, though a lot of them are no longer used.

He eventually went to Rome and studied Catholicism, and adopted the moniker Father Jerome.  He returned to the Bahamas in 1939 after spending some time in Australia.  Father Jerome chose Como Hill on Cat Island as the site of a hermitage and renamed it Mount Alvernia in honor of the Tuscan hill where St. Francis of Assisi received the wounds of the cross.  Como Hill is the highest point in the Bahamas at a nose-bleed altitude of 206 feet.

St Francis of Assisi was more or less his role model, and Father Jerome emulated the simple barefoot missionary existence that St. Francis did.  He stayed in solitude at his monastery for 18 years until his death at age 80, but not after leaving a legacy of churches throughout the Bahamas.

The hermitage is tiny, and a normal-sized man can barely fit in the halls.  A well and bakery make up a few remaining outbuildings.  A small chapel, bell tower, bedroom, and kitchen are in the main building.

Gallery (click image to open in a new window)

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