VIDEO: The Most Mystical Place in the Bahamas
Perched atop the highest point of land in the entire Bahamas sits one of the most amazing and curious structures you will ever see in the Caribbean.
This is The Hermitage on Cat Island Bahamas; a church, a place of refuge and a monument constructed by a most inspiring man.
The Hermitage was built in 1939 by Father Jerome, an architect-turned-priest known for building churches in England and Western Australia.
The Hermitage is built on Mount Alvernia, so named by Father Jerome as it was known as Como Hill prior to 1939.
Father Jerome also built 5 other churches in the Bahamas including several others on Cat Island and St Pauls Church in Clarence Town, Long Island.
He lived in the Hermitage for 17 years until his death in 1956, and at his request was buried in a cave at the base of The Hermitage with no coffin and no shoes.
Local residents who still remember him recall him as a small and almost mystical figure.
Before he “retired” to the Bahamas, Father Jerome was known as the Right Reverend Monsignor John Cyril Hawes.
Jerome was a priest in the Church of England before converting to Roman Catholicism and receiving his ordination as a Catholic priest, and Pope Pius XI named him a Monsignor.
He was an architect and builder before and after he was ordained as a priest and he combined his passions for buildings and God.
It’s fitting that that the Hermitage, his creation, devotion and final resting place lives on beyond him in complete deference to the world around it.
A stone spot in a sea of green brush on Cat Island, the site was both a residence and a place for meditation and prayer.
There are a series of rooms connected by small passageways; bedroom, cooking room, chapel, bell tower and guest room.
It’s very quiet here and if you have the correct senses you can feel a palpable presence and a mystical energy in the air.
If your imagination is not conjuring up a presence, you’ll still know what Father Jerome was trying to communicate just by looking around — this place is no luxury villa!
Earlier in his life, when he was Monsignor Hawes he wrote ; “a proper church is no mere assembly hall, theater, or auditorium for preaching and community singing but it is in the first place of all a place of sacrifice. A church should breathe forth an atmosphere of prayer, of religious awe and supernatural mystery.”
Here, he truly succeeded.
The Hermitage is open to the public 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
While it’s not too far from Nassau, it’s a million miles away.
And at 207 feet above sea level, it’s the closest you can get to heaven in the Bahamas.
— Guy Britton