At the top of 206-foot Mt. Alvernia, the highest point in the Bahamas, the Hermitage is the final resting place of Father Jerome who lived quite an astonishing life. Born John Hawes, he was an architect who traveled the world and eventually settled in the Bahamas. An Anglican who converted to Roman Catholicism, he built many structures including in the Bahamas a hermitage on Mt. Alvernia; two churches, St. Paul's and St. Peter's, in Clarence Town, Long Island; as well as the St. Augustine Monastery in Nassau. He retired to Cat Island to live out his last dozen years as a hermit, and his final, supreme act of religious dedication was to carve the steps up to the top of Mt. Alvernia. Along the way, he also carved the Stations of the Cross. At the summit, he built an abbey with a small chapel, a conical bell tower, and living quarters comprising three closet-size rooms. He died in 1956 at the age of 80 and was supposedly buried with his arms outstretched, in a pose resembling that of the
The pilgrimage to the Hermitage begins next to the commissioner's office at New Bight, at a dirt path that leads to the foot of Mt. Alvernia. Don't miss the slightly laborious climb to the top. The Hermitage provides a perfect place to pause for quiet contemplation. It also has glorious views of the ocean on both sides of the island. A caretaker clears the weeds around the tomb—which islanders regard as a shrine—and lights a candle in Father Jerome's memory.