The Katskhi Pillar, a natural limestone monolith, rises 130 feet from the ground outside the village of Katskhi in Western Georgia. At the top sits a church, a crypt, three hermit cells, and a curtain wall. The original buildings date back to the 9th century but were abandoned around the 1400s, left to be shrouded in myth and legend.
The site remained undisturbed for nearly 500 years, until 1944, when researchers ascended to discover the ruins of an early medieval hermitage likely run by the Stylites — an ascetic branch of Christianity.
Religious activity on the tip of this monolith was revived in the 1990s with the arrival of a single monk, Maxime Qavtaradze — a Chiatura native who climbed the monolith in 1993 because he wanted to be closer to God. Between 2005 and 2009 the buildings were restored with a state grant, and Maxime continues to occupy the monastery. Food and supplies are winched to the top of the pillar, but human traffic must use the iron ladder fastened to the stone.
Until recently you (if you’re male) could climb the iron ladder to the top, but now it’s been deemed inaccessible to the public and is an invitation-only affair. The site is still worth seeing from the ground, and at the base is a newly built church of Simeon Stylites surrounded by other ruins.
How to get there
Katskhi Pillar is located in the village of Katskhi in the western Georgian region of Imereti, just 5km outside the small town of Chiatura. Chiatura is approximately 200km from the city of Tbilisi.
On the main road, there is a signpost directing you to the parking lots. It’s recommended to park at the first and walk to the second where you can get a closer view and snap great pictures.
What to consider
- Although you cannot ascend the pillar (unless you’re invited), it’s worth the view from below.
- There’s another monastery, Mghvimevi, in Chiatura which is an out of the way treasure, definitely worth a visit.
- You can visit the newly constructed chapel at the base of the pillar.
- The road to the pillar gets a little rough, you might want to get out and walk from the first parking lot.