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Katskhi Pillar: The Staircase to Heaven

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Katskhi Pillar is a limestone monolith located in the village of Katskhi in western Georgia. The pillar is approximately 40 meters high and has a small church on its summit. The first recorded mention of the pillar is from the 13th century, but it is believed that the structure has been used as a place of worship since the 4th century.

The pillar is located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia and is the beautiful country of Georgia. This small region is covered with amazing mountain ranges and gently rolling hills. The summer sun burns hot in the area, and the winters turn your breath into a cloud of smoke.

Visiting this country will surely amaze the eye with its many brilliant features. However, nothing will knock the wind out of you as much as the sight of the amazing Katskhi Pillar.

About Katskhi Pillar

Aerial view of Katskhi Pillar and nature scenery
Evaldas / Adobe Stock

The Katskhi Pillar towers above an incredible mountain view full of luscious green trees and a blue-swirled atmosphere. This amazing formation stands out alone and reaches high above the landscape. The rock tower protrudes upwards at an angle as if it wants to touch the sky.

The Katskhi Pillar starts at the bottom with a narrow base and fills itself out toward the top, leveling off to an incredible platform. The Pillar has been called the “staircase to heaven” due to its remote location and climbing difficulty. It is said that only those with a pure heart can make the ascent. The Pillar has been a place of pilgrimage for centuries.

Today, the Pillar is still a popular destination for pilgrims and tourists. The top views are breathtaking and an experience everyone should have at least once. In recent years, the Katskhi Pillar has undergone multiple restorations to preserve it for future generations.

Katskhi Pillar on the top of a rock
Phil West / Shutterstock

Many names have known Katskhi Pillar over the centuries. It is sometimes called the “Column of Life” or the “Staircase to Heaven”. The Georgians call it Katskhi MetsBItskari, “the place where the eagle’s nest.”

Christians believe that it was on this spot that Saint Nino, the evangelist of Georgia, had a vision of the cross. This led her to convert Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century. In the church, on top of the pillar, you will find a wine cellar, a curtain wall, three hermit cells, and a burial chamber.

Kastskhi Facts

Fact Details
Height Approximately 130 feet (40 meters)
Age The exact age is unknown, but it has been a site of religious significance since at least the 9th century
Location Near the village of Katskhi in the Imereti region of western Georgia
Composition Natural limestone monolith
Structures A small monastery complex, including a church, crypt, and three hermit cells
Accessibility Accessible only via a 131-foot (40-meter) ladder attached to the pillar’s side
Inhabitants Currently home to a single monk, Maxime Qavtaradze, who resides atop the pillar
Historical Significance Served as a pagan holy site before the arrival of Christianity and later became a Christian hermitage

How Was Katskhi Formed?

Katskhi Pillar Monastery in Georgia
Ahmed / Adobe Stock

The stone pillar was formed over millions of years due to natural weathering and erosion. The natural limestone monolith is sedimentary rock deposited in a marine environment.

Over time, the rocks were subjected to physical and chemical weathering, which caused them to break down into smaller pieces. The Katskhi Pillar is the result of this process.

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The Church of Simeon Stylites

Colorful fresco mural in Church of Katskhi Pillar depicting religious figures and icons
beibaoke / Adobe Stock

The church of Simeon Stylites is a chapel at the pillar’s base. This newly built church was completed in the 1990s and is dedicated to Saint Simeon Stylites, a 5th-century hermit who lived on the pillar for 37 years.

The chapel’s interior is simple, with a bare concrete floor and white walls. A small altar in the center of the room and two windows provide views of the surrounding landscape.

The church of Simeon Stylites is open to visitors and pilgrims who climb to the top of the Katskhi Pillar. A mass is occasionally held in the chapel, but it is not a regular occurrence.

The Three Hermit Cells

Stairs on the back of Katskhi pillar
Murrr Photo / Shutterstock

The hermit cells at Katskhi Pillar are believed to have been used by St. Simeon and his disciples. These cells are simple, square rooms with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The walls are made of stone, and a small hole in the ceiling allows light to enter. The cells are accessed by a staircase that leads up from the ground floor.

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The Burial Chamber

Historic Katskhi Pillar church in Chiatura, Georgia with lush greenery and stone cross.
beibaoke / Adobe Stock

The burial chamber at Katskhi Pillar is believed to be the final resting place of St. Simeon. This room is similar to the cells but has a dome-shaped ceiling. The walls are lined with stone benches, and a large hole leads to an underground chamber in the center of the floor.

The wine cellar on Katskhi Pillar is a marvel of architecture and engineering. It’s said that the wine cellar was built by St. Simeon, who also built the pillar. This is a small, square room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The walls are made of stone, and a small hole in the ceiling allows light to enter.

The Monastery

Ornate medieval Katskhi Monastery facade with intricate carvings under blue sky
SeregaYu / Depositphotos

A monastery building was built in 1993 on top of this astonishing landmark. Padre Maxim of Chiatura was passionate about seeing the Georgian orthodox church built. He lived at the bottom of the pillar for some time before he received money from a friend to build the house of God at the top of the rock formation.

The government of Georgia immediately stepped in to make the construction take place. To get to the top of the tower, a steel ladder must be climbed straight up. The monastery is an incredible 40 meters off the ground.

With the support of the surrounding community, Padre Maxim is well taken care of and has no worries about running out of food and necessary items to survive. Surrounded by the misty mountain air atop an awe-inspiring natural creation, he desires to serve God and pray for the world’s sins.

The monastery is not a tourist place. It is strictly forbidden to visit it. Only the monks of the region are allowed to enter the church, and monks from the religion are atop.

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How to Get to Katskhi Pillar

Metal ladder leading to Katskhi Pillar under protective mesh against blue sky.
Sergey / Adobe Stock

From Tbilisi to Chiatura

  • By Bus: To get to Katskhi Pillar, you must take a bus from Tbilisi to Chiatura. The journey takes approximately 3-4 hours. Then, walk uphill for around 15 – 45 minutes from the village of Chiatura. The path is well-marked, and there are a few benches where one can rest along the way.
  • By Car: Drive from Tbilisi to Chiatura, which takes around 3 hours. The distance is approximately 200 km (124 miles).

From Chiatura to Katskhi Pillar

  • By Foot: Walk uphill from the village of Chiatura to the Katskhi Pillar. The walk takes between 15-45 minutes, depending on your pace. The path is well-marked, and there are a few benches along the way to rest.
  • By Taxi: Hire a taxi from Chiatura to the Katskhi Pillar. The ride takes about 10 minutes and costs around 10-15 GEL ($3-5 USD).

The final ascent to the Pillar is a steep scramble up some rocks, but it is not too difficult. Once at the top, the views are breathtaking. On a clear day, one can see the Black Sea.

Where to Stay Near Katskhi Pillar

Panoramic view of the mountainous city of Chiatura
Mikhail Starodubov / Shutterstock

A few small villages are located near Katskhi Pillar. The closest is Chiatura, which features a few hotels and guesthouses. It’s a convenient place to stay if you’re visiting the Pillar.

Here are some of the best places to stay near Katskhi Pillar in the town of Chiatura, categorized by budget:

Budget:

  • Sveri Adventure Camp: Located in Chiatura, this budget-friendly accommodation offers dormitory-style rooms and a shared kitchen.
  • Hotel family hotel: A simple, affordable hotel in Chiatura with basic amenities and easy access to the town center.

Mid-range:

  • Butichi Guest House: This charming guest house in Chiatura offers comfortable rooms, a garden, and a terrace with scenic views.
  • DONNA: A well-appointed hotel in Chiatura featuring modern rooms, a restaurant, and excellent hospitality.

Luxury:

  • hotel in chiatura: One of the top-rated hotels in Chiatura, this property boasts stylish rooms, a fitness center, and a spa for a luxurious stay.
  • Dito’s house: A high-end accommodation option in Chiatura, offering elegant rooms, a restaurant, and personalized service.

For those looking to stay even closer to Katskhi Pillar, consider these options in the nearby village of Katskhi:

  • Lika’s Sweet House: A cozy guesthouse in Katskhi village with homely rooms and a garden, just a short drive from the pillar.
  • Vaso’s Guesthouse: Another fantastic option in Katskhi, this guesthouse provides comfortable rooms and warm hospitality near the famous pillar.

Another option is to stay in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital. Tbilisi is about four hours away from Katskhi Pillar, but flying outside Georgia is convenient. There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses in Tbilisi, and it’s a great base for exploring the rest of Georgia.

Nearby Attractions

Panoramic view of Tbilisi at sunset
vvvita / Shutterstock

Plenty of great attractions near Katskhi Pillar are worth exploring. Some of the most popular include the following:

  • Chiatura: Located about 20 minutes from Katskhi Pillar, Chiatura is an industrial city known for its fascinating cable car network connecting the city center to the surrounding hills and mines.
  • Mgvimevi Monastery: Situated approximately 6 miles (10 kilometers) from Katskhi Pillar, Mgvimevi Monastery is a 13th-century Georgian Orthodox monastery complex nestled in a picturesque forested area.
  • Gethi Waterfall: This stunning waterfall is located around 18 miles (30 kilometers) from Katskhi Pillar and is accessible via a short hike through a lush forest.
  • Bagrati Cathedral: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bagrati Cathedral is located in Kutaisi, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) from Katskhi Pillar. This 11th-century cathedral is a prime example of medieval Georgian architecture.
  • Gelati Monastery: Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gelati Monastery is situated near Kutaisi, roughly 34 miles (55 kilometers) from Katskhi Pillar. Founded in 1106, this monastery complex was once a major center of education and culture in Georgia.
  • Prometheus Cave: Located approximately 37 miles (60 kilometers) from Katskhi Pillar, Prometheus Cave is a stunning natural wonder featuring impressive stalactites, stalagmites, and underground rivers.

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