We’re excited to bring on Brookland-based freelance writer Zak M. Salih for an occasional series of longer-form posts. Zak’s written for blogs and publications including UrbanTurf, Washington City Paper, The Millions, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. You can learn more about him at zmscopy.com — or just look for him sipping Manhattans at Steel Plate. Welcome aboard, Zak!
Peace. Quiet. Solitude.
For some people, that sounds like a horrible idea. For others, it sounds like just the respite needed from a frazzled, hyperactive life.
One solution to that, it turns out, isn’t hours away in the mountains. It’s right in our own backyard.
The hermitages at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America (1400 Quincy Street NE) offer anyone – not just the deeply religious – an opportunity to retreat from the world. To sit and contemplate things bigger than themselves.
Inside each hermitage (there are currently two) is 350 square feet of handicapped-accessible living space, including a bed, a desk, a kitchenette, a washer/dryer, and a small deck. The most important asset, however: the profound sense of removal from the world. (There’s a reason the hermitages are built to fit only one person.)
It’s a retreat in every sense of the word: physical, mental, and — if you’re so inclined (though it’s not a prerequisite) — spiritual.
As Father Jeremy Harrington, former Guardian of the Franciscan Monastery, said during the opening dedication ceremony of the first hermitage in September 2012:
Saint Francis regularly went to remote places, caves, and mountaintops to pray. So this is the hermitage for people to come and have the opportunity right in the middle of Washington for prayer, for solitude, for communion with God.
Designed in collaboration with architecture students from The Catholic University of America, the hermitages are a far cry from the dank caves and grottoes Saint Francis preferred. They’re more like 21st-century cabins dropped onto the Monastery’s 42 acres.
And they’re getting more popular. A second hermitage opened last year on December 1 to accommodate increased interest in stays (the first hermitage hosted 76 visitors in 2016).
According to Susan Gibbs, a spokesperson for the Franciscan Monastery:
The original vision is to have a maximum of four hermitages, depending on space, finances, and demand. The second hermitage is located near the first, but the layout is different, so each experience will be unique.
If you’re interested in booking, it’s best to send an email to email@example.com. You can also call 202-526-6800 with general inquiries.
The cost is $80 per night and includes everything except food, for which the hermits themselves are responsible. As far as length of stay, people usually stay between one and seven nights, though longer retreats can be arranged.
This writer (and closet hermit) certainly plans on making a reservation in the coming months, once spring arrives for good.
Learn more about the hermitages here.