Pillar of Katskhi – A Pillar of Life
13 November, 2014
Pillar of Katskhi – A Pillar of Life
One Georgian Orthodox monk has come up with a plan for a lifetime of escape atop a 40-meter-high rock column in central Georgia’s Imereti region. The monastery building on the top of the pillar is now restored and the rock is accessible through an iron ladder running from its base to the top. It is approximately 40 meters high, and it overlooks the small river valley of Katskhura.

People called it a pillar of life. Nobody had examined it before
1945. They found remains of an old hermit who lived there. Nobody knows how he could get up there. After research, they discovered that the first “building” on the top dated back to 5th century. On the top there is a church and there also used to be a hermitage, which was built around the 9th century. It was ruined and forgotten until 1945 when the pillar was first climbed. In 1995 it was restored and rebuilt. Now it is called the church of St. Maximus the Confessor.
The Katskhi pillar is a natural limestone monolith located at the village of Katskhi in the western Georgian region of Imereti, near the town of Chiatura. Its mythical aura made it a place of worship since humans settled this area. The church was probably built by the Stylites, who were early Christian ascetics who stood on top of pillars when preaching and praying. The pillar served as a pagan holy place for a long time and was most likely used for fertility rites. With the arrival of Christianity in Georgia in the 4th century, it came to represent seclusion from the hustle and bustle of ordinary life. Women are not allowed to climb to the top.
A church was first built atop the rock between the 6th and 8th centuries. No one knows exactly how or why. It is not known how the pagans who built the temple carried the materials up the steep pillar without large cranes that are used today. Stylites used Katskhi for their devotions until some time in the 15th century, when Georgia was struck by domestic upheaval and invasions by Ottoman Turkey. The remains of one unknown practitioner today lie buried beneath the church.
Today visitors get to the top by climbing a 130 foot ladder but no one knows for sure how the monks got to the top of the pillar or indeed how they carried the building materials up thousands of years ago.
The Katskhi was ranked second on the list of Most Incredible Cliff Buildings in the world by international website www.theworldgeography.com.

How to get there:

Head to Didube Station or Central Station in Tbilisi and pay 7 GEL for the trip. Upon leaving Tbilisi and passing by Gori, turn right before you reach Khashuri and head to the town of Sachkhere, followed by Chiatura. Katskhi pillar is located in 10 km from Chiatura.

Getting closer to God: Meet the monk who lives a life of virtual solitude on top of a 131ft pillar (Daily Mail)

Maxime Qavtaradze, a 59-year-old monk, has lived a life of virtual solitude on top of a pillar high above his Georgian monastery for 20 years. He became a monk after a stretch in prison, as he says, and decided he wanted to make a change. The monk slept in a fridge when he first moved to the top of the pillar, but now has a bed inside a cottage.
When father Maxime wants to leave Katskhi Pillar, he spends 20 minutes getting down a 131ft ladder. But having worked as a crane operator before taking his orders in 1993, Maxime has always had a head for heights. He only comes down twice a week to pray with his followers.
He receives his lunch at the top of the Katskhi Pillar. His supporters winch supplies up the ladder. Men with trouble in their lives come to stay and ask for guidance from Maxime and the young priests who live at the site.
Speaking about his isolation, Maxime comments: ‘I need the silence. It is up here in the silence that you can feel god’s presence.’

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