When you drive along the beautiful country lanes of Georgia’s remote areas, you can expect immensely pleasurable experiences. But what you will not be expecting is a religious experience.
That is until you pass a hidden Lane signpost with a seemingly out-of-place picture of a church.
It is the path to the Katskhi pillar. This impressive monument is a limestone monolith that towers beyond 130 feet. It is at least 40 m high and soars into the air on top of which stands what is probably the most isolated and most sacred church in any part of the world.
This site is situated approximately 200 km or about 125 miles west of Georgia. It is a remarkable landmark that is notoriously challenging to reach. Keep in mind that there are no trains in this region, so the only way to travel to this spot is via car or bus. However, if you have intense religious fervor, it may be worth the trek.
The final approach to this spiritual landmark is made by foot. You will need to trek the 20-minute hike in which the monolith suddenly soars in the vibrant Georgian landscape horizon. Consider it an enchanting experience that will only intensify as you near the pillar itself. A climb up to the steps is a sure sign that you will be nearly there.
At the monolith’s base are a cloister and a chapel that should come into view on the right-hand area. On the left stands the 130 feet tall limestone column in all its compelling magnificence.
The katskhi pillar complex is exceptionally unique. On the side of the column is a church built in the 18th century and was dedicated to a 7th-century monk called Maximus the Confessor. Within the complex are also burial chambers as well as a wine cellar. There is also a curtain wall as well as three hermit cells.
Every day the monks who live under make the tense 20-minute ascension by a thin ladder fastened to the side of the rock. This assiduous journey is made to recite prayers at the top. It is said to bring them closer to God.
In 1995 a new church was built on the rock.
Beneath the rock’s column stands a newly constructed church as well, which is called the Simeon Stylites. It is a monastery built from the ruins of an old wall and belfry.
In present times, the pillar is celebrated for being one of the most spiritually remarkable landmarks on earth. Local monks in the area are now the only people in the world who are allowed to take the 20-minute climb up the steel ladder to reach the side of the column to the very top.
It is believed that this daily pilgrimage brings them closer to God, and it is their way of offering themselves to the Higher Deity.
The first-ever monks began living in the church back in the 10th and 11th centuries. They will climb up on top of the pillar. Nowadays, there are no monks who live there. Instead, they only go up to pray then return to the monastery down below.
People who are not monks are forbidden to climb to the top of the pillar. However, if you are coming as a tourist, there is still plenty to see within the katskhi pillar complex.
The monastery and the surrounding complex were restored via a state-funded program back in 2009. The work continues up to today to allow guests and visitors to experience up close what has existed thousands of years ago. There is also a new visitor center to be established along with a small souvenir shop.