The anchoritic life became widespread during the early and high Middle Ages. Examples of the dwellings of anchorites and anchoresses survive. They tended to be a simple cell (also called "anchorhold"), built against one of the walls of the local village church. Once the inhabitant had taken up residence, the bishop permanently bricked up the door in a special ceremony.
One of the reasons the hermitic and monastic traditions were popular in mideval european culture was the existance of a written tale of the life of St. Anthony the Great (a 3rd century Egyptian Christian) that had been translated into latin and perputuated.
Alltogether it makes for very interesting reading....