Visita interiora terrae – Hermits in Italy


november 2013 / september 2014

Desert dweller: this is the etymological meaning of the word hermit. The concept of hermit’s life is deeply rooted in Christianity. Through prayer and penance, the hermit spends a life completely committed to God’s praise and to the service of humanity.

The hermit shall ask for his cleric in chief’s approval to be consecrated and observe the rule of charity and the rule of work. He shall earn his living with all the available means that are compliant with the Christian teachings.

Even if eremitism is strictly connected to religious aspects, in everybody’s imagination a hermit is a person who has purposely chosen to live isolated from society, often in a remote place and in search of a lifestyle that is not frantic, with slow times marked by the rhythms of nature and by the passing-by of seasons. An existence dedicated to solitude, contemplation and to subsistence work. In Italy, there are more than two hundred hermits: non-confessional, atheist and of different religious confessions.

This is the story of a journey. A route of several months, from North to South, to observe silently their choice.

“…The hermit, in the image that is familiar to us, recalls the desert, the solitude, the cave…These elements are pure metaphors. The solitude symbolizes the path necessary to overcome the centers of noise and agitation that are so common to the human being…The mind is immersed in a frenzied flow of ideas tangled to each other…The hermit silently stands in the heart of this typhoon…he understands that this wealth of ideas does not represent his real self and hence goes deeper inside his own emotional sphere. Once there, he is startled at finding himself plunged in a rising sea of love, grudges, hopes, desperation, hate, enthusiasm, joy and discouragement. Within such a whirl, the hermit asks himself again “where is my true self?” Alchemy hast left a motto that represents the hermit’s unwavering task:
Visita interiora terrae, rectificando invenies occultam lapidem(Consciously descend to the Earth womb; while recomposing yourself, you shall find the hidden stone)…”


Gold does not lie in the clouds, but in the earth trampled by feet”.


                                        (Father Giovanni Maria Vannucci)