Near the village of Katskhi in the Imereti region of western Georgia, there is a natural monolith of rock about 40 meters (131 feet) high known as the Katskhi Pillar.

The first mention of it in historical records appears in the 18th-century work “Description of the Kingdom of Georgia” by the cartographer, historian, and geographer (as well as a prince) Vakhushti, who lived between 1696 and 1757. It states:

There is a rock within the ravine that rises like a pillar, significantly tall. There is a small church at the top of the rock, but no one is able to ascend it, nor do they know how to do so.

Indeed, the church, which still exists, was built sometime between the 6th and 10th centuries, although no one knows how or why.

What is known is that the site was inhabited by Christian hermits at least until the 15th century.

In fact, the remains of the last hermit were found during the first documented ascent of the pillar.

This took place in July 1944 when a group led by mountaineer Alexander Japaridze and writer Levan Gotua reached the summit of the pillar, discovering the remains of two medieval churches associated with stylite practices (medieval hermits who spent their lives on top of columns or pillars).

However, subsequent research casts doubt on the idea of extreme asceticism, as they found that the pillar complex would have consisted of a monastery church with cells for hermits, but also a small winery.

Image from 2013 with the monk Maxime at the top of the pillar / photo Jaba1977 on Wikimedia Commons

In 1995, a monk requested permission to restore the buildings and live on the pillar, which was granted. An iron ladder was then installed, allowing access (only for men), although it seems that it has recently been declared inaccessible by the authorities.

In any case, the restored church, a small chapel measuring only 4.5 by 3.5 meters, was dedicated to Saint Maximus the Confessor, and the monk in question, named Maxime Qavtaradze, stayed to live on the pillar, as reported by numerous media in 2013, although an image of a tomb at the base of the pillar, dated 2014, seems to indicate that he died the following year.

As in many other places in Europe, it seems that the pillar was already a center of worship long before the arrival of Christianity in Georgia in the 4th century, the second country to declare it the official religion after Armenia.

Many tourists visit Katskhi just to see the pillar, and most agree on two things: from below, the site is truly impressive, and the memory of the monasteries of Meteora always comes to mind.

This article was first published on our Spanish Edition on June 22, 2019. Puedes leer la versión en español en El espectacular pilar de Katskhi en Georgia


Eurasianet | Description géographique de la Géorgie | The Telegraph | Wikipedia

  • Share this article:

Discover more from LBV Magazine English Edition

Subscribe to get the latest posts sent to your email.

Something went wrong. Please refresh the page and/or try again.