Greek: eremites, inhabitants of a desert
A man who dwelt alone in retirement to pray and meditate. This mode of religious life is considered to date from the early persecutions of the Church, though its Old Testament precursor is found in Elias. Saint Anthony the Abbot popularized it at Pispir early in the 4th century, and after the persecutions hermits increased in Egypt, Palestine, the Sinaitic peninsula, Mesopotamia, Syria, and Asia Minor, and spread to the West. Eventually monasteries combining the advantages of the cenobitical and eremitical types of religious life were founded. Many isolated hermits were formed into congregations, e.g., Hermits of Saint Augustine (1256), of Saint Ambrose (1441), of Saint John the Baptist, approved by Pope Gregory XIII, and many others. Individual hermits were numerous in the 17th century in Italy, Spain, France, and Flanders, but it has ever been the wish of the Church that the hermits be united into communities. See also patrons of hermits.