The Hermits of Mount Carmel

The great Carmelite adventure starts in the 11th/12th century on a wide mountain range, with a beautifull sight on the Mediterranean Sea: Mount Carmel.

The renaissance of eremitic life was directly linked to the difficulties of religious life, lived in communities, at this time. Life in monasteries had become much too complicated and most of the vital energy went into management. 

Lay people then searched for (and found) a remote location where they could live alone with God, day
and night. Each hermit had his own hermitage, lonely at first, because they were not in relationship with the other hermits. 

This was not the end of the story. Eventually, the hermits started to meet once a week for the Eucharist. Later, they met every day for the Eucharist and they tried to organize themselves. Everyone had his own living space. Between 1206 and 1214, St. Albert, patriarch of Jerusalem wrote the Rule of Carmel. Later Carmelite life developped in the West. Carmelite life was more oriented towards community life. For men, it was more apostolic. 

What does this first part of carmelite history tell us today?

It tells us there is room for different forms of Carmelite life. The choice to emphasize either the eremitic life or the life in community depends on the culture and the times: when monasteries are in trouble, eremitic life grows for a time. Then the wish to meet for prayer and other activities comes back, sooner or later.

Is this not a fantastic dynamic? Carmel offers flexibility and this is very much what our life needs today.


Each one of you is to stay in his own cell or nearby, pondering the Lord's law day and night and keeping watch at his prayers unless attending to some other duty.

(Carmelite Rule, 10)