In the footsteps of Brother Charles

08/01/2008 - 08:13

Assekrem in the Hoggar mountains

Brother Charles' hermitage, AssekremBrother Charles' hermitage, Assekrem

From there we penetrated to the “end of the earth”, that is, the hermitage at Assekrem, more than 9,000 ft up in the Hoggar mountains to the north. Today, in a four-wheel drive, the 50 or so miles take four to five hours. Just imagine how remote it must have been in Br. Charles’s day!

He arrived there in July 1911, with 16 months’ provisions, intending to forge contacts with the nomadic Tuareg. In the event, he stayed only five months, passing through twice thereafter.

The hermitage, on the eastern edge of a plateau, commands what must be one of the most spectacular views on earth, a vast panorama of bare basalt peaks shaped by the wind into sugar-loaves, table mountains, pyramids and giant fingers.

Looking East from the hermitage at AssekremLooking East from the hermitage at Assekrem

When the Little Brothers of Jesus came there in 1955, they prudently built their fraternity just below the crest of the plateau, out of the wind. Today, they act as an unofficial reception committee to the 20,000 or so visitors each year, about a fifth of whom are pilgrims.

On the evening of our arrival, Fr. Emmanuel celebrated Mass for us in the hermitage, our party of around 20 filling the little chapel to the brim. We then crossed the plateau to watch the sun set. This was the culminating point of our pilgrimage.