Welcome to The Hermitage of Cat Island. The roof of The Bahamas!
Cat Island is one of the Out Islands or Family Islands in the Bahamas. Located about 117 miles south of Nassau, this island lives life in the slow lane. No big resorts, no cruise ships, no big airport to shuttle people in and out–Cat Island is a place you go to see the “real” Bahamas and soak in unique island beauty.
One of Cat Island’s most unique attractions is The Hermitage. The Hermitage is a small medieval monastery built by a Roman Catholic priest named Father Jerome back in 1939. This site is also known as Mount Alvernia, or locally called Como Hill…and just happens to be the highest point in The Bahamas. At 206 feet above sea level, it’s no Mt. Everest, but it gives you some stunning views of both the windward and leeward sides of Cat Island.
If you’ve been following along on this blog for at least 3-4 years, you might have read that my wish was to propose to the beautiful Castaway Crystal at The Hermitage. She has always wanted to go to Cat Island (she loves cats probably a little too much!) and what better place to pop the question than the roof of The Bahamas! Well, the boat trip I had arranged was suppose to make a stop at Cat Island, but we never made it due to weather and a host of other issues. You can read all about that drama here and here. So the proposal happened in Florida and we are happily married now, but we were still drawn to Cat Island and seeing The Hermitage was stop one.
Once we landed at the small Cat Island airport, secured our rental car and checked into our cottage at Fountain Bay Resort, the first thing on our list was to hike up Como Hill and explore The Hermitage.
The Hermitage is located in New Bight, a settlement just south of the airport. Travel south past the FishFry and you’ll see a big sign that says The Hermitage, Mount Alvernia. Take that road for about 2-3 minutes until it ends and you’ll see the beginning of the path that will take you up the hill to The Hermitage.
Stations of the Cross
On the way up the hill to The Hermitage you’ll see a stone staircase that takes you up the steep hill. On this path you’ll see beautiful hand-carved stone reliefs of Jesus as he carried the cross. These carvings are known as the Stations of the Cross. There are over a dozen and you’ll see them all the way up the hill, leading you right to the monastery. Here are a few photos of what they look like.
The Hermitage Monastery
At the top of the rock staircase sits The Hermitage itself. Once you catch your breath from the climb, the first thing you’ll notice is the intricate detail of the structure. You’ll also notice that it’s smaller than what you were probably expecting. The rooms, chambers, and doorways are quite narrow with low clearance. So you might think Father Jerome was a small man, but locals actually said he was more on the taller side. So go figure.
You’ll see a room where he slept, you’ll see a room where he probably ate, and you’ll see a beautiful alter room where he would pray. In this alter room there is a book that you can sign letting others know you have made it to The Hermitage ( bragging rights!). Here are a few photos of what the grounds and inside look like.
It’s such a special spot we decided to go twice during our 5 day stay on Cat Island. Once in the morning and once in the late afternoon. Because of its views, it’s also a fantastic place to soak in the Bahamian sunset.
Father Jerome traveled throughout the Bahamian islands, building cathedrals and convents in places like Long Island and New Providence. But he always came back to Cat Island. He died in 1956 and it is said that he is buried somewhere on the site of The Hermitage.
We love the Out Islands of the Bahamas, and Cat Island only reinforced that love. We highly recommend a visit and hope you have as much fun exploring The Hermitage as much as we did. You can find a few other “must see” places on Cat Island here.
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