Sitting 206 feet above sea level on Mount Alvernia is Cat Island’s site, The Hermitage. This is the highest point in the Bahamas and you have to trek up a steep stone path to reach the top of Como Hill and this unusual monument.
The man behind this safe haven is Monsignor John Hawes, born in England in 1876, a priest, and a prize-winning architect of his time. It was on assignment to the Bahamas where Hawes was building new churches and rebuilding churches ravaged by hurricanes, that Monsignor Hawes renamed Como Hill, Mount Alvernia, after a hill in La Verna in Tuscany. This hill had been given to St. Francis of Assisi, as a peaceful place for his contemplations. Hawes had been deeply touched by the life and works of St. Francis throughout his time in the seminary, and renaming Como Hill was a way to bring St. Francis to Cat Island.
The Hermitage was built in 1939 by Hawes (locally known as Father Jerome), using local stones from Como Hill. Designed as a medieval monastery, the buildings were designed for any dweller, to exit the world, and enter the silence of meditation and contemplation.
People from all over the world, as well as locals, have used this space to meditate or just collect their thoughts. While Father Jerome (John Hawes) was a Catholic, and there are carved religious symbols on the stone paths to the peak, the space has been enjoyed by everyone and is not limited to any particular religious practitioners.
Architecture Insight: Organic Window Styles
The windows (in picture above) breathe freely, looking like a hole in the wall with a weather cover to board the window. These island windows do not have glass but any damage from weather is usually minimal as the window opening is smaller than the average window size.