hermit [Gr., = desert], one who lives in solitude, especially from ascetic motives. Hermits are known in many cultures. Permanent solitude was common in ancient Christian asceticism; St. Anthony of Egypt and St. Simeon Stylites were noted hermits. Many extreme Franciscans (Spirituals) of the 13th and the 14th cent. were hermits, among them Pope St. Celestine. In the East the hermit, or eremetical, life was widely held to be the more perfect form of monasticism and was open only to those who had first passed years in a monastic community. Monasticism in the West developed along the less rigorous communal lines; the Carthusians are well-known exceptions. The hermit or anchorite of the ancient church lived in the desert, commonly walled up in a cell with only a window. In medieval Europe the cell usually connected with a church. The Ancren Riwle was written for English anchoresses. Juliana of Norwich was a famous English anchoress.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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