Ain’t no monk high enough at the Katskhi Pillar! A monk by the name of Maxime Qavtaradze wanted to get closer to heaven… literally, but he didn’t want to die in order to get there, so he came up with a more interesting approach to reach up and touch the sky.
All it took was for him to scale a natural rock formation 130 feet in the sky, and then his amazing story went viral. Are you afraid of heights? Then you might never be able to visit Maxime! And we mean, NEVER EVER!
The pillar was derelict, and Maxime decided it was THE place to go on a quest for self-exploration.
It’s known as the Katskhi Pillar and is a natural formation towering over the central Imereti region of the Republic of Georgia. It may not be Mount Olympus, but it’s certainly the next best thing.
The holy revival ended up turning the pillar into a monastery.
Religious activity associated with the pillar was revived in the 90s and the monastery building was restored within the framework of a state-funded program back in 2009. After its restoration, the monk decided he wanted to live there.
Some people love playing “Stairway To Heaven” while others, like Maxime, live on one!
Climbing to the top was no easy task, but Maxime Qavtaradze, a monk, scaled the pillar in 1993 to get closer to God and is today in charge of maintaining a small church up there.
Oh holy shrine! What mighty views you have!
The Christian shrine is maintained at the site of the former bygone stylite’s worship and is accessible only through a 130-foot metal ladder.
A lot of people came before Maxime though, as climbers found their way and made it to the top!
The pillar was uninhabited since the 1400s. When climbers ascended the tower for the first time in centuries back in 1944, they found the ruins of a church and 600-year-old bones of the stylites.
The stylite tradition began in 423 when St. Simeon, the Elder, climbed a pillar in Syria in order to avoid temptations seen as a sin.
The practice eventually became unpopular, but Maxime is a modern devotee and wants to renew the tradition.
But even if you think he’s just a hermit, you’d be surprised there’s a lot more depth to this seemingly quirky monk.
Maxime prefers to live a life in seclusion, but he does come down twice a week to counsel troubled young men who come to the monastery at the bottom to ask for his help.
But the breathtaking views and silence the pillar offers is everything Maxime’s been looking for.
Nowhere around the world has this monk managed to find a more peaceful scenario than in this beautiful spot.
Some people are able to meditate in the comfort of their own homes, or take some time off near a camp area close to the city.
But Maxime was on a spiritual quest, and needed to find the kind of location that would let him unwind, and meditate about life and his spiritual beliefs. He stopped searching the second he found this pillar!
When you go on a quest of self-exploration, you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.
You may need to sleep on the floor, skip a few meals, cross a few rivers, and climb a few mountains.
Even if you’re not a religious or spiritual person, you can see the appeal of leaving all the noise and stress of the city and focus on yourself and the world around you.
That’s exactly what this man needed to keep his spiritual evolution moving forward.
He needed to get to the top to get rid of his past, and climbing this pillar ended up changing his life.
In many ways, his climb to the top was like climbing out of a dark hole. As a young man, Maxime was sent to prison after he drank too much, sold drugs, you name it, he did it. But then things changed.
The monk was reborn as a child of God.
Maxime took his monastic vows back in 1993, and has since been working to rebuild the monastery complex, chapel, and hermitage for over 15 years.
He didn’t just find calm, he felt God’s touch and found what he was looking for.
Anyone who is hard core religious would love nothing more than to feel God’s presence, especially during a crisis of faith. But Maxine can feel God just fine while standing on top of the 40-meter high pillar.
But it’s not all easy peasy out there on the top of that holy pillar! It’s a pretty rough life.
For the first two years, Maxime claims that he slept inside a refrigerator to protect himself from the harsh weather conditions. Now he has a comfortable bed where he can lay his weary bones to rest.
Once you’re there, you don’t just stare at the beauty of nature. You read…and you read A LOT!
Ask any monk and he’ll tell you that reading is essential, especially when you’re living in a cottage atop of a pillar without cable, Dish Network, or Wi-Fi to keep you entertained.
Ego isn’t a part of his quest, and he loves the respect he gets from onlookers.
Maxime’s favorite spot on the pillar is the top so that others can look up at him with respect from the ground. It’s not an ego-trip of any kind, he just likes feeling like those of the faith need him.
Food is necessary, but if you’re wondering how he manages to eat, he’s got a helping hand that brings him lunch, as he can’t prepare anything up there.
Even monks can’t survive on faith. Fortunately, Sergo Mikhelidze and a friend are happy to deliver lunch to Maxime using a winch, a mechanism that transports everything he needs to the top of the pillar.
But some people wouldn’t be caught dead in such altitude, and they wouldn’t dare to move there either!
You might think to yourself, “I’d never do that,” especially if you’re terrified of heights. But Maxime worked as a crane operator during Soviet times, so he’s never afraid of heights. Plus, he has his faith to keep him strong.
It takes Maxime 20 minutes to climb up or down, and again, he only comes down to pray with the others in the monastery at the foot of the cliff.
He has also stated that once he is too old to use the ladder, he will remain at the top until his eventual death.