Katskhi Pillar

| Tourism objects | 4 seen

The Katskhi pillar is a natural limestone monolith located at the village of Katskhi in western Georgian region of Imereti, near the town of Chiatura. It is approximately 40 metres (130 ft) high, and overlooks the small river valley of Katskhura, a right affluent of the Q'virila.

If you have seen those amazing video clips about Georgia, you have most probably noticed this interesting object at some of them. It took me more than five years since I have been living in Georgia to actually visit it. Frankly speaking I have wanted to see Katskhi pillar since day one I arrived to Georgia, but things are as they are and it was on a late Autumn Saturday's afternoon we planned our trip to Chiatura and to this amazing place.

It's pretty hard to make a decent photography here without framing a lot or shooting from a long distance.

Katskhi pillar

Katskhi pillar

The rock was once accessible to male visitors through an iron ladder running from its base to the top, but has recently been deemed inaccessible to the public.

The rock, with visible church ruins on a top surface measuring c. 150 m2, has been venerated by locals as the Pillar of Life and a symbol of the True Cross, and has become surrounded by legends. It remained unclimbed by researchers and unsurveyed until 1944 and was more systematically studied from 1999 to 2009. These studies determined the ruins were of an early medieval hermitage dating from the 9th or 10th century. A Georgian inscription paleographically dated to the 13th century suggests that the hermitage was still extant at that time. Religious activity associated with the pillar was revived in the 1990s and the monastery building had been restored within the framework of a state-funded program by 2009.

Monk at Katskhi pillar

Monk at Katskhi pillar

Religious activity started to revive in 1995, with the arrival of the monk Maxim Qavtaradze, a native of Chiatura. Between 2005 and 2009, the monastery building on the top of the pillar was restored with the support of the National Agency for Cultural Heritage Preservation of Georgia.

The Katskhi pillar complex currently consists of a church dedicated to Maximus the Confessor, a crypt (burial vault), three hermit cells, a wine cellar, and a curtain wall on the uneven top surface of the column. At the base of the pillar are the newly built church of Simeon Stylites and ruins of an old wall and belfry.

The church of St. Maximus the Confessor is located at the south-easternmost corner of the top surface of the Katskhi pillar. A small simple hall church design with the dimensions of 4.5 × 3.5 m., it is a modern restoration of the ruined medieval church built of stone. Beneath and south of the church is an elongated rectangular crypt with the dimensions of 2.0 × 1.0 m., which had served as a burial vault. Digs at the ruined wine cellar revealed eight large vessels known in Georgia as k'vevri. Also of note is a rectangular cellar grotto with the entrance and two skylights—on the vertical surface of the rock, some 10-metre (33 ft) below the top. At the very base of the pillar there is a cross in relief, exhibiting parallels with similar early medieval depictions found elsewhere in Georgia, particularly at Bolnisi.

Katskhi pillar

Katskhi pillar

In historical records, the Katskhi pillar is first mentioned by the 18th-century Georgian scholar Prince Vakhushti, who reports in his Geographic Description of the Kingdom of Georgia:

"There is a rock within the ravine standing like a pillar, considerably high. There is a small church on the top of the rock, but nobody is able to ascend it; nor know they how to do that."

No other written accounts of monastic life or ascents survive. A number of local legends surround the pillar. One of them has it that the top of the rock was connected by a long iron chain to the dome of the Katskhi church, located at a distance of around 1.5 km from the pillar.

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