Five years ago Catholic priest Johannes Schwarz left his parish to “withdraw for a few years” in the Italian Alps (in the shadow of his beloved Monte Viso). He bought an old “rustico” – stone farm building – for 20,000 euros and transformed it into his mountaintop hermitage.
Inspired by the early Christian desert hermits from the “200s and 300s when some people went into the deserts of Egypt and Palestine searching for a more rigorous life”, Schwarz found something remote: he has only one full-time neighbor on the entire mountainside and in winter, he often has to snowshoe for a couple of hours just to buy food and supplies.
To be as self-sufficient as possible, he makes his own bread and stores plenty of potatoes which he grows using Ruth Stout’s “No-Work” gardening method. To grow much of his own fruit and produce, he terraced the steep hillside (using stones from the area) to create micro-climates. “You try to build walls that have southern exposure because they heat up during the day and they give off the warmth and can make a difference of several degrees.” (Studies show differences of 27°F/15°C in the ultra-deep Incan terraces). He grows plenty of tomatoes inside his self-built recycled greenhouse.
For heating and cooking, he built a combination rocket stove and masonry heater by creating his own casts and loam coating. His refrigerator, which he transported up the hill on top of his bicycle, is kept in the unheated room, along with his food stores. He uses a tiny 30-year-old 3-kilogram washing machine and built his bathroom out of salvaged materials. To transport the lumber up the hill for his remodel, he got some help from a local farmer.
He divided the old barn into four small rooms on two floors; the living room/kitchen and pantry on the ground floor and a chapel and bedroom upstairs. His bedroom also serves as an editing studio where he creates videos on philosophy and religion (his pilgrimage films & his Youtube —German—).
He created a wooden-arched indoor chapel where he “celebrates the traditional Latin mass” alongside a wall he painted with Byzantine, romanesque and gothic styles in appreciation of “the symbolism of the ancient art.”