The Katskhi Pillar, Georgia

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The Katskhi pillar is an imposing limestone monolith, 40 meters tall, located in the village of Katskhi in western Georgian region of Imereti, about 10 kilometers from the mining town of Chiatura. In pagan times, before the advent of Christianity, the towering Katskhi Pillar was thought to represent a local god of fertility. With the arrival of Christianity in Georgia in the 4th century, the rock came to represent seclusion. The locals call it the Pillar of Life.

At the summit of the Katskhi pillar, are the remains of a small church built between the 6th and 8th centuries. The church was probably built by the Stylites, who were early Christian ascetics who stood on top of pillars and preaching and praying. The only written record of the Katskhi pillar occur in the text of an 18th-century Georgian scholar, who noted the church for its inaccessibility. There is however, a number of local legends surrounding the pillar, one of which says 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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The Katskhi pillar remained unclimbed by researchers and unsurveyed until 1944. Following more systematic research after 1999, researchers concluded that complex was composed of a monastery church and cells for hermits. Discovery of the remnants of a wine cellar also undermined the idea of extreme ascetism flourishing on the pillar. In 2007, a small limestone plate with the asomtavruli Georgian inscriptions was found, paleographically dated to the 13th century and revealing the name of a certain "Giorgi", responsible for the construction of three hermit cells. The inscription also makes mention of the Pillar of Life, echoing the popular tradition of veneration of the rock as a symbol of the True Cross.

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.

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At the top of the Katskhi pillar. Photo credit

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At the top of the Katskhi pillar. Photo credit

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Sources: Wikipedia, Mystagogy

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