Archive for October, 2014

Anniversary of The Hermitage

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2014 by citydesert

October 26 is the Commemoration of Saint Cedd (Cedda) (620-664), Bishop of the East Saxons, Abbot of the Monastery of Lastingham (Laestingaeu) in Northumbria (England); brother of Saint Chad (Ceadda) (d 762: Bishop of the Northumbrians and subsequently Bishop of the Mercians and Lindsey People, and, after Cedd, Abbot of Lastingham); and brother of Saint Cynibil and Caelin (Bishop of Deira).
It is also the second anniversary of the foundation of The Hermitage of Saint Cedd. The Hermitage was provisionally established on the Feast of Saint Alban (c.209), Protomartyr of Britain, June 22 2012. It was formally established on the Feast of Saint Cedd, October 26 2012.
Hermitage sign 2 (2)
The Hermitage gardens, notably the herb and vegetable gardens, are much improved following Father Edward’s residence here, and, with the arrival of Summer they are bursting into enthusiastic growth. Father Edward’s horticultural skills, no less than his theological and liturgical knowledge, have been greatly appreciated.
The highlight of the period leading up to the second anniversary of The Hermitage was our pilgrimage to the cave of the Hermit Father Guri (Demidov)(1894-1992), Australia’s first Orthodox Hermit, at Kentlyn, on the outskirts of Sydney – see

Saint Ethbin, Hermit of Kildare

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2014 by citydesert

October 19 is the Commemoration of Saint Ethbin, Hermit of Kildare
“Born in Great Britain; died c. 600. Saint Ethbin’s noble father died when he was only about 15 years old. His widowed mother then entrusted his education to his countryman, the great Saint Samson (f.d. July 28), at Dol Abbey in Brittany.
At Mass one day, he really heard the words: “Every one of you that cannot renounce all that he possesses, cannot be my disciple.” He immediately resolved to renounce the world. Because he was a deacon, Ethbin sought the permission of his bishop to withdraw from the world. Upon receiving it, Ethbin retired to the abbey of Taurac in 554. For his spiritual director, the saint chose another: Saint Winwaloee (f.d. March 3). The community was dispersed by a Frankish raid in 556 and Winwaloee died soon thereafter. Ethbin then crossed over to Ireland, where he led the life of a hermit in a forest near Kildare called Nectensis (unidentified) for 20 years.

Troparion of St Ethbin
Tone 8
As a disciple of our Father Samson,
thou wast radiant in thy asceticism, O Father Ethbin,
and having been driven out of Tantac by the unruly Franks
thou didst seek refuge in the remoteness of Erin’s green desert.
Wherefore, O Saint, pray for us that we may not be swayed from our course,
despite all difficulties, that our souls may be saved.”

“St. Ethbin was born in Great Britain; and died in Kildare about the year 600. He was of noble birth. His father died when he was only about 15 years of age. His widowed mother then entrusted his education to his countryman, Saint Samson of Dol Abbey in Brittany.
One day, while Ethbin was at Mass, he really heard the words: “Every one of you that cannot renounce all that he possesses, cannot be my disciple.” He immediately resolved to renounce the world. Because he was a deacon, Ethbin sought the permission of his bishop to withdraw from the world. Upon receiving it, Ethbin retired to the abbey of Taurac. This was about the year 554.
For his spiritual director, this saint chose another: Saint Winwaloë. The community of Taurac was dispersed by a Frankish raid in 556 and Winwaloë died soon thereafter.
Ethbin then crossed over to Ireland, where he led the life of a hermit for 20 years in a forest near Kildare, now unidentifiable, called Nectensis. Historically, there was no cultus for Saint Ethbin in Ireland. His relics are claimed by Montreuil and Pont-Mort in France.
Ethbin tomb
The date assigned to his feast, for example, in the Martyrology of Donegal, is 19th October.”

“He was of a noble British family, and was sent early into France to be educated under the care of his countryman, Saint Samson, who was then bishop of Dole. Under this excellent master he made great progress in virtue: and hearing one day at mass these words of the gospel: Every one of you that doth not renounce all that he possesseth, cannot be my disciple, he immediately formed a resolution to renounce the world. He was at this time a deacon, and having obtained his prelate’s consent he retired to the abbey of Taurac, in the year 554. Here he chose for his guide a holy monk named Guignole, or Winwaloe.
The community of Taurac being dispersed about the year 560, by an irruption of the Franks, and Guignole dying soon after, Saint Ethbin passed into Ireland, where he lived twenty years in a cell which he had built for himself in the midst of a forest. He was famous for his austerities and his miracles, and died at the age of eighty-three, towards the close of the sixth century, on the 19th of October, the day on which his name occurs in the Roman Martyrology.”

St Gallus, Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16, 2014 by citydesert

October 16 is the Commemoration of St Gallus, Hermit
Gall 1
“Saint Gall, Gallen, or Gallus (c. 550 – c. 646) was an Irish disciple and one of the traditional twelve companions of Saint Columbanus on his mission from Ireland to the continent. Saint Deicolus is called an older brother of Gall.
The fragmentary oldest Life was recast in the 9th century by two monks of Reichenau, enlarged in 816–824 by the celebrated Wettinus, and about 833–884 by Walafrid Strabo, who also revised a book of the miracles of the saint. Other works ascribed to Walafrid tell of Saint Gall in prose and verse.
Gall was born in 550. As a young man he went to study under Comgall of Bangor. The monastery at Bangor had become renowned throughout Europe as a great centre of Christian learning. Studying in Bangor at the same time as Gall was Columbanus, who with twelve companions, set out about the year 589, bidding a lifelong farewell to home and friends to face unknown difficulties and dangers in the extension of the Gospel.
St Gall 2
Gall and his companions established themselves with Columbanus at first at Luxeuil in Gaul. In 610 A.D., St. Columban was exiled by leaders opposed to Christianity and fled with St. Gall to Switzerland. He accompanied Columbanus on his voyage up the Rhine River to Bregenz but when in 612 Columbanus travelled on to Italy from Bregenz, Gall had to remain behind due to illness and was nursed at Arbon. He remained in Swabia, where, with several companions, he led the life of a hermit in the forests southwest of Lake Constance, near the source of the river Steinach. Saint Gall was soon known in Switzerland as a powerful preacher.
St Gall 3
When the See of Constance became vacant, the clergy who assembled to elect a new Bishop were unanimously in favour of Gall. He, however, refused, pleading that the election of a stranger would be contrary to Church law. Some time later, in the year 625, on the death of Eustasius, abbott of Luxeuil, a monastery founded by Saint Columbanus, members of that community were sent by the monks to request Saint Gall to undertake the government of the monastery. He refused to quit his life of solitude, and undertake any office of rank which might involve him in the cares of the world. He was then an old man.
St Gall 4
He died at the age of ninety-five around 646–650 in Arbon.”

Saint Levan, Hermit of Cornwall

Posted in Uncategorized on October 14, 2014 by citydesert

October 14 is the Commemoration of Saint Levan (Selevan, Selyr, Selyf), Hermit of Cornwall

“Prince Selevan of Dumnonia, like his brother, St. Just, entered the church. He was known by the commom people as St. Levan and he lived in the village now named after him. Originally he settled in Bodellan, but quickly moved on to St. Levan, treading the path that still exists today between there and Chapel Porth Cove (alias Porth Selevan). On the clifftop here stands his well and a flight of steps descend to the ledge were the remains of his chapel and hermitage.
St Levan stone
In the churchyard at St. Levan is a large rounded pre-christian sacred boulder. The clever saint used the site of this pagan idol to build a church, so its holy reputation was maintained. St. Levan used the stone as a resting place on which to sit on his return from his numerous fishing trips. He often preached from here. Just before he died Levan struck the stone hard with his fist. The rock split in two and the saint declared:
When, with panniers astride,
A pack-horse, one can ride,
Through St. Levan’s stone,
The World will be done.
We’ve got some way to go yet! One writer declared in 1881 that despite knowing the stone for fifty years he had never discerned any movement at all.
Levan ate but one fish a day, and refused to fast even on the Sabbath. Once while on his way to do a little fishing on a Sunday, the saint was rebuked by a local woman named Joanna who was out tending her herb garden. The saint quickly retorted that fishing was no worse than gardening. The woman insisted he was in the wrong. An argument ensued in which St. Levan finally called the woman a fool and proclaimed that in the future any child of the parish called Joanna would find herself to be as stupid as her namesake. Hence no Joannas have since been born in St. Levan.
On one of his fishing trips he caught two chad (bream) on the same hook. Only wanting his customary one fish, he threw them both back, but a second and a third time the two returned to his hook. Taking this as a sign, St. Levan eventually returned home with the both fish and found his sister, St. Breaca, awaiting him with her two sons. St. Levan cooked the chad and served them up to the two ravenous children, but the unfortunate pair neglected to remove the bones and both choked on their dinner. The accursed fish have since been known as chuck-cheels or “Choke-childs”. “

“St Levan was born near St Buryan in the sixth century and was one of numerous Celtic saints who established hermitages around the Cornish coast when Christianity was under siege by the Anglo-Saxon pagans who flooded into Britain after the Romans left. These tiny chapels were usually near a beach (many of the saints arrived by sea from Brittany, Ireland and Wales) and were always near a spring which provided the hermit’s drinking water. St Levan’s chapel was near the beach at Porth Chapel and linked by about 50 stone steps to the well on the hillside above. The name Levan is a corruption of St Selevan, the Celtic form of Solomon.”
St Levan's Well
“St Levan’s Holy Well is close to the Hermit Cell of St Levan – there’s a flight of 40-50 stone steps leading down to it. These are the original medieval steps, leading from the beach at Porthchapel down to the St. Levan Holy Well which were discovered and uncovered in the 1930s as part of an excavation by Rev. H T Valentine and Dr Vernon Favell.
The holy well of St Levan is alongside the path on the clifftop above Porth Chapel beach. Here you will see three walls of large granite blocks, about 4′ high, and a floor which is a huge slab of granite covering the spring which flows out at the southern end.
Below the well there used to be another ancient chapel and burial ground, lost over the cliffs. Locals called the well Parchapel Well and those recorded 160 years ago by Blight (1850s) remembered how, in their youth, they’d visit Parchapel Well twice a year, for repairs and to clean it out and clear the ground around it. The steps leading down to the well were also weeded, cleared and sanded. Parchapel Well would be dressed at the beginning of May every year as well as at Feasten tide. Water from St Levan’s Well was collected and taken to the church for baptisms.”
St Levans Church
For St Levan’s Hermit Cell and St Levan’s Church, see further:

A 19th Century European Hermit

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2014 by citydesert

Hermit Butterworth
A delightfully romantic portrayal of a 19th century European Hermit from Hezekiah Butterworth “Zigzag Journeys in Europe: Vacation Rambles in Historic Lands” [Boston: Estes and Lauriat, 1879] – available on-line at:
Zig zag cover
Hezekiah Butterworth (1839-1905) was an American writer of books for young people, and a poet.

“The Heritage of the Desert Fathers” Research Project

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2014 by citydesert

“When I first met with Jan Ciglenečki, a scientific member of the Institute for the Study of Christian Tradition (Ljubljana, Slovenia), working at that time in the library of the French Institute for Oriental Archaeology (IFAO) in Cairo, I could not really understand what it meant when he first said there is no map of the hermitages in the deserts around monasteries, the information being scattered hidden in the archaeological literature on dynastic pre-Christian period(since the abandoned pharaonic tombs had been often inhabited by the hermits). How could this be significant to a historian of ideas? As he explained more, I gradually arrived at a basic idea of how from geographical data the patterns of dissemination and migration of ideas could emerge, which would in turn help to reconstruct the daily lives of the early hermits, and consequently providing a theological and philosophical understanding of their teachings, and the rich variety of local influences on their practices.
Hermitage project 1
More and more I could see the need for locating the hermitages to fill the gaps in the bigger picture of Coptic hermitism. After the first trip, I joined the project of “the Heritage of the Desert Fathers”, in deep conviction of the importance of the work that has to be done for our heritage. The mission I undertook is submitting the heritage of the Desert Fathers for nomination to the UNESCO’s World Heritage List, while simultaneously raising awareness of the general public….
In order to make the map, the team needed desert survival experts, who would help us in finding the exact geographical coordinates of caves and hermitages, as well as monasteries and sites of functional importance (e.g. sources of water). For this purpose, Guillaume Grac and Samuel Forey, each with exceptional experiences in desert navigation, have joined our team. Once the coordinates are established, it will be possible to create a series of layer files, containing valuable information on individual hermitages as well as on the overall pattern of their distribution.
And there we set off to the desert, although the sight of the almost all red map of the country circulated by embassies is definitely not the most encouraging. There seemed to be no turn of events that the country could not take, which had left a perpetual state of alertness in the air. Not without reason. The curfews that left the roads intimidating and heavily monitored had created the ghostly monsters of anticipated violence. Had it been just the scarey myths of terror we heard everyday, it would have been tolerable. But, not an Egyptian would say without regret the fact that all the monsters in our heads seemed to materialize month after month in all forms and ways.
Hermitage project 6
The preliminary survey trips were made in the desert mountains North and South of Wadi Araba in the Eastern desert, the cradle of hermitism where the hermitage of Saint Anthony is, the region of Al Fayoum oasis, where, we scanned the areas partly excavated by the Polish archeologists from the Polish Center for Mediterranean Archaeology (PCMA) in Cairo, whose director drew our attention to the picturesque hermitages in the rocky desert around the monastery of Archangel Gabriel (deir al Malak Gabriel); the numerous pharaonic tombs in the Nile valley, hardly accessible due to the current political instability; the remnants of the Christian communities in the Bahareya and Farafra oases in the Libyan desert (Eastern Sahara); and on the edges of the Delta region in the ancient Kellia sites and the hermitages in Wadi Natrun, where monastic life has not only lived to the modern times, but also remained to be one of the most influential.
The idea of making the map, and the outcome of these preliminary surveys, raised a lot of interest in the scientific communities. Soon, positive feedback came from several researchers and institution all around the globe….
Hermitage project 2
“The Heritage of the Desert Fathers” research project aims at creating a comprehensive map of the geographical distribution of early anchorites and providing a firm basis for more detailed archaeological research of the hermitages. An in-depth documentation of artificial modifications in the caves around the monasteries might help in the efforts to reconstruct the architectural diversity and the gradual transformations of the hermitages. Once the coordinates are established, it will be possible to create a series of layer files, containing valuable information on individual hermitages as well as on the overall pattern of their distribution. The maps will be made available for the unrestricted use of the community of researchers from all disciplines….
The reception of the project has been exceptional and very promising, but in order for such scale of work to proceed towards its goals on the long term, organization on steady, well-established grounds for systematic progress is indispensable…
Hermitage project 3
If there is any mission that I am after, it is the mission of helping us to achieve a true knowledge of a significant aspect of our heritage. Such consolidated knowledge is not a fake, empty source of pride, but a strong pillar, among others needed, around which we can weave our present and future.”
Hermitage project  7
An extract from: Amira Nagati “The Heritage of the Desert Fathers. Slovenian expedition in the deserts of Egypt and the ancient Christian kingdoms of Nubia” (October 9, 2014)
Hermitage project 4
For the Project, see:
“”The Heritage of the Desert Fathers” research project aims at mapping and photographic surveying of the locations of hermitages in the deserts around monasteries in Egypt and in the Sudan (the ancient Christian kingdoms of Nubia), in addition to the study of the ancient and modern eremetical traditions in their different psychological, theological as well as philosophical aspects.
Although much of the focus of the previous work on the Christians in the deserts has been laid on the archaeological research of the ancient monasteries around Egypt and the Sudan, a systematic overview and recording of the hermitages is lacking. This is especially the case in the more remote areas of Upper Egypt, the Eastern desert, the Western oases, and the Sudan.
The premise of our team is therefore set to the task of finding the exact geographical coordinates of caves and hermitages, in addition to those of monasteries and sites of functional importance (e.g. sources of water). Once the coordinates have been established, it will be possible to create a series of layered filters, containing valuable information on individual hermitages including the overall pattern of their spatial distribution.
Hermitage project 5
The purpose is to develop an interactive map of hermitism and monasticism in Egypt and Sudan, which will include three different registers: (1) the geographical map; (2) photographic material and (3) the philosophical, theological and historical related texts. The resulting data collection of maps and photographic material will be made freely available to the community of researchers from a variety of disciplines.”

Derwas James Chitty

Posted in Uncategorized on October 9, 2014 by citydesert

Not long ago a friend gave me a large collection of Orthodox publications, including a number of editions of the “Eastern Churches Review”. Volume VI Number 1 (Spring 1974) focuses on the life and work of the remarkable scholar, Derwas James Chitty (1901-1971), author of “The Desert a City: An Introduction to the Study of Egyptian and Palestinian Monasticism under the Christian Empire” [Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1966; St Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1977].
Scan_20141009 (2)
“Derwas James Chitty (1901-1971) was an English Anglican priest and member of the Fellowship of Saint Alban and Saint Sergius. He was known as a writer on the spirituality of the Greek Orthodox tradition.
After a childhood in the country rectory of Hanwood, Shropshire, an education at Winchester where he and his brother were Scholars, and at New College, Oxford, followed by 2 years at the Ecole Biblique in Jerusalem, in 1929 he and his friend Michael Markoff excavated the Monastery of St. Euthymius in the Judaean wilderness. In 1931 he became Rector of Upton near Didcot, 15 miles from Oxford, in what was then Berkshire, where he remained until 1968. In 1943 he married the archaeologist Mary Kitson Clark whose Gazetteer of Roman Remains in East Yorkshire is still in use. During the Second World War he was a Chaplain in the Royal Navy, posted in Columbo and Bombay among other places (hence possibly the erroneous mention of India on this page previously).
He published a large number of articles and works on early Eastern Monasticism, including his magnum opus, ‘The Desert a City’.”
Desert a city 1
“This study of early Christian monasticism by Derwas Chitty has already proved to be a classic. No other account of this vital period in the history of the monastic movement equals it for detailed scholarship combined with vivid and dynamic writing. Dr. Chitty, one of the major scholars in this period, deals with the golden age of Egyptian monasticism and describes the three founders of the movement, Anastasius, Anthony and Pachomius. He follows the development of monastic life in all its forms in Egypt to the end of the fourth century, when the center shifted to Palestine; the following chapters are devoted to accounts of the great ascetics of Palestine. The controversies surrounding the monastic movement are examined in their political and ecclesiastical aspects and the book concludes with an account of the monastic history of Mount Sinai. This book contains a wealth of material indispensable to any serious student of monasticism; it is also a book which will bring alive for any reader the great questions underlying monasticism in any age. As Dr. Chitty writes in his prologue, ‘This making a City of the Wilderness was no mere flight…it was rooted in a stark realism of faith in God and acceptance of the battle which is not against flesh and blood… Has it not its challenge for today?’”

This issue of “Eastern Churches Review” also contains a paper by Chitty: “The Books of the Old Men” (a study of the sayings of the Desert Fathers); and several other fascinating papers: Jean-Claude Guy “Educational Innovation in the Desert Fathers”, and Antoine Guillaumont “The Jesus Prayer Among the Monks of Egypt”