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hermits of St. Romuald of Camaldoli, “ for greater solitude no one must enter or even put his head into the cell of a hermit, unless in the event of fire, or sickness, or urgent necessity *.” If the imaginary personage of the poet could say,
“ Sunt mihi, pars montis, vivo pendentia saxo
Nec sentitur hyems t,"
Hail, thou fair heaven !
Horridæ cautus petis antra sylvæ,
Transigis multa prece, nec diurnam
Quæ blandis animos illecebris trahunt,
Prudens, antra subiveras I." St. Ephraim of Odessa lived on the banks of a small rivulet, by the sides of which rugged rocks, nearly 100 feet high, reared their heads. In the highest of these he hewed out a cell, with two windows in opposite directions, which gave him a clear view up and down the stream. The entrance was by a narrow and intricate path, which could scarcely be recognized, save by himself alone. Between the two disjointed chasms of this huge rock there was a thin coating of soil, which he converted into a garden, for the rearing of such herbs as his fare required. St. John of Egypt lived forty-seven years in his hermitage on the banks of the Nile, during which time he had never seen a piece of money. The hermitage of St. Macaire of Alexandria was studded all round with flowers and shrubs of various kinds, forming a spot so beautiful that many persons came from a distance to admire it. It was in a similar solitude that St. Arsenus lived fifty-five years, after spending twenty at the court. It is to such spots that the poet supposes himself hastening, where he begins in the well-known lines,
Constit. Er. c. 1.
+ Ov. Met. xii. # Arevalus, Hymnodia Hispanica D. S. Prudentii.
“ Turn, gentle hermit of the dale,
And guide my lonely way
With hospitable ray."
There are thirteen hermitages on Montserrat ; on the highest point is that of St. Jerome, much exposed to cold winds, but nevertheless at present inhabited. It is one league from the monastery, and two from the foot of the mountain. Half a league below, descending towards the south, is the hermitage of St. Magdalen, placed between steep rocks almost inaccessible, the ascent to it being by precipitous steps cut in the rock. From the windows of this hermitage the abbey is seen below beneath a frightful precipice. A little lower towards the south is the hermitage of St. Onuphrius, in the hollow of a rock halfway up a precipice, fifty toises from the foot of the rock, so that seen from below it seems suspended in the air ; the entrance is by a wooden bridge, resting on the rock, over a precipice which inspires horror. This is the smallest of the hermitages, but it is well built, and the residence is healthy. Further towards the
south, on the same rock, is that of St. John, the most agreeable of all on the mountain. The entrance is easy, and the view most beautiful ; there are gardens and walks contrived along the rock, and bordered with precipices on all sides. From here one sees lower down towards the south the hermitage of St. Catherine at the foot of a great rock. It is the farthest and the least visited, being out of the great road of the hermitages, but it is a delightful residence. Turning towards the north, one sees on the summit of a high rock the hermitage of St. James. The approach is very difficult, and the high winds, which reign there almost continually, render it an inconvenient residence ; but it has its pleasures, and the view is lovely. Descending from the hermitage of St. Jerome towards the north, after walking a quarter of a league by a rough and difficult path, one comes to the hermitage of St. Anthony, built nearly on the summit of a vast rock. It has a little garden terminated by a precipice, which makes giddy those who look down. The view is delightful. Thence to the monastery there are three-quarters of a league, so that its solitude is less interrupted. Walking then along a high hill for more than a quarter of a league among many steep rocks, one comes to the hermitage of the holy Saviour. Its chapel is scooped out of a rock so high that its point seems to touch the clouds. Its vault appears like jasper. A little lower towards the south is the hermitage of St. Benedict, with a beautiful garden and delightful walks. Thence, descending to the valley, one comes to the hermitage of St. Anne, which is in the centre of all the hermitages. Its chapel is larger than the others, with a little choir, where all the bermits assemble on Sundays and festivals to hear mass and the sermon by the father vicar. Thence, turning to the north, one mounts to the hermitage of the Holy Trinity at the foot of the rocks. It has beautitul alleys of trees, with delightful walks. Lower down towards the east, adjoining the rocks, is the hermitage of the Holy Cross, built on the steps by which one mounts from the monastery to the hermitages. This way is composed of 600 steps cut in the rock, and in some places quite through it in form of a tunnel. Near these stairs, to the east, is the hermitage of St. Dymas, or of the Good Thief, on the summit of a precipitous rock steep on all sides. Here are the ruins of an old castle, which could only be entered by a drawbridge, which, being raised up, the place was impregnable. Formerly thirty robbers took possession of it, and thence made predatory expeditions, ravaging the whole country, casting great stones down upon the monastery, and so obliging the monks to satisfy their demands. The place being taken by surprise during their absence and razed to the ground by the abbot, the present hermitage was built on the spot, under the title of the Good Thief. In each hermitage there is a kitchen, a refectory, and one or two chambers. The little birds on Montserrat are so tame that they come to feed out of the hermits' hands ; they perch on their cowls, and when their young ones are afraid to approach, the parent birds peck at them to make them advance *.' These hermits rise at two in the morning, say their office and pray till five, and spend the rest of the day working and reading. They carve wood ; and some of their little works, when given to princes and kings, are esteemed by them as more valuable than precious stones.
But we must no longer remain on the sacred mountain of Catalonia ; other hermitages invite us forwards. Those heights of Ætna, where during the world's blindness satyrs danced and Cyclops dwelt in caves f, were now inhabited by the hermit, who might say with Menalcas : “ Ætna is a mother to me, and I dwell in a beautiful cave in the hollow rock [.” The “Ætnæan brothers” of Virgil were now hermits ; in fact, few mountains or woods in any part of Christendom were left without some hermitage. St. Stephen, about to embrace the eremitical life after the examples he had seen, came first from Calabria, in the year 1076, to a woody mountain of Aquitain called Muret, not far from the city of Limoges, where he found rocks and fountains, a desert, pathless land covered with wood, dreary all the year round, where no men, but only wild beasts, lived. Here he made a hut of boughs. For the first year he was alone, but in the second year he was joined by two disciples. Then others came ; and so by degrees a community of hermits was formed, who lived here like those of Egyptg.
These are curious details. It is difficult, perhaps, for any one wholly to resist the kind of charm which is attached to the descriptions of the ancient hermitage, as in the lines,
“ Farre in the forrest, by a hollow glade
Ne scarse wyld beasts durst come, there was this wight's abode." These beasts, however, did approach, and even fawn upon the hermit, who used in reality to express the sentiment which the poet ascribes to him, saying,
Taught by the Power that pities me,
* Dom Louis Montegut, Hist. Notre Dame de Montserrat, Epitome Historico del Portentoso Sanctuario y Real Monasterio de Nuestra Señora de Monserrate. † Eurip. Cyclops.
I Theocrit. § Levesque Annales Ord. Grandimontis, 1.
The eremitical solitude, it must be confessed, is sometimes described in episodes of great beauty. “A certain young brother,” says Pelagius, “asked the abbot permission to repair to the desert, and he gave him two monks of the monastery for guides, and they departed. After proceeding two days they began to find the heat insupportable, and they lay on the ground, when an eagle came near, and, flying a little before them, perched on the ground. And the inonks said, 'Lo! there is your guide further on, follow him ; and, rising up, he took leave of the monks. And on the eagle flying on he followed it, and it alighted again ; and when it flew on farther, he still kept up with it for three hours, while it always flew a short space, and then sat as if waiting for him. At last the eagle wheeled to the right, and he lost sight of it; but, on proceeding, he found three poplar-trees, and a fountain, and a cavern, and there he resolved to remain. So he entered the cave, and ate dates, and lived there for six
Sometimes it is in small islands that the hermitage is found. Thus the monk of St. Albans speaks of an island called Koket on the coast of Northumberland, where a single monk resides as a hermit, the place being considered as a hermitage. Islands amidst inland wastes were often the site. So, describing the region of Crowland and Ely, an old historian says, " The fen begins from the river Granta, not far from the town of Grantchester. There are immense marshes, now a black pool of water, now foul running streams, and also many islands, and reeds, and hillocks, and thickets; and with manifold windings, wide and long, it continues up to the North Sea. Here was the great wilderness into which a man named Tatwine conducted St. Guthlac, saying that he knew an island called Crowland, especially obscure, which ofttimes men had attempted to inhabit, but no one could do it on account of manifold horrors and fears, and the loneliness of the wide wilderness, so that no man could endure it, but every one on this account had fled from it t." In very ancient times monasteries themselves possessed men who aspired to lead an eremitical life, as in the deserts of Palestine. Secret chambers with little gardens were prepared for them. The Spanish monasteries had always provision in some desert near them for those who wished to lead this kind of life, as those of St. Æmilian de Corolla, of St. Turibius of Liebana, of St. Peter de Montibus, and others I. These solitary hermits used every Sunday to leave their cells, and come to the monastery to receive the communion, and then after the office to
* Pelagius Diaconus, de Vita S. Patrum, c. 7.