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

Aerial view of Katskhi Pillar
a_medvedkov / Adobe Stock

Visiting this country is sure to marvel the eye with its many brilliant features. However, there is nothing that will knock the wind out of you as much as the sight of the amazing Katskhi Pillar.

How was Katskhi Formed?

The stone pillar was formed over millions of years as a result of natural weathering and erosion. The natural limestone monolith is made up of sedimentary rock that was 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.

Katskhi Pillar

Katskhi column
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Katskhi Pillar towers above an incredible mountain view that is full of luscious green trees and a blue swirled atmosphere. This amazing formation stands out alone and reaches high above the landscape. At an angle, the rock tower protrudes upwards 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 difficulty to climb. 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 alike. The views from the top are truly breathtaking and it is an experience that everyone should have at least once in their lifetime. In recent years, the Katskhi Pillar has undergone multiple restorations in order to preserve it for future generations.

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

Katskhi Pillar has been known by many names over the centuries. It is sometimes called the “Column of Life” or the “Staircase to Heaven”. The Georgians call it Katskhi MetsBItskari, which means “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.

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The Church of Simeon Stylites

Katskhi Pillar
Photo: leonio

The church of Simeon Stylites is a chapel at the base of the pillar. 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 interior of the chapel is extremely simple, with a bare concrete floor and white walls. There is a small altar in the center of the room and two windows that provide views of the surrounding landscape.

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

The Three Hermit Cells

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 there’s a small hole in the ceiling that 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

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 it has a dome-shaped ceiling. The walls are lined with stone benches, and there’s a large hole in the center of the floor that leads to a subterranean chamber.

The Wine Cellar on Katskhai

The wine cellar on Katskhai 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 itself. This is a small, square room with a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The walls are made of stone, and there’s a small hole in the ceiling that allows light to enter.

The Monastery

Katskhi column
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A monastery building was built in 1993 on top of this astonishing landmark. Padre Maxim of Chiature had a passion to see the Georgian orthodox church built. He lived at the bottom of the pillar for a period of time, before he received the money from a friend to build the house of God at the top of the rock formation.

The government of the country of Georgia immediately stepped in to make the construction take place. To get to the top of the tower, there is a steel ladder that has to 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 of 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 sins of the world.

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 atop are monks from the religion.

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How to get to Katskhi Pillar

Stairs on the back of Katskhi pillar
Murrr Photo / Shutterstock

To get to Katskhi Pillar, you’ll need to take a bus from Tbilisi to the town of Chiatura. Then walk uphill for around 15 – 45 minutes from the village of Chiatura. The path is well marked and there are a few benches along the way where one can rest.

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 all the way to the Black Sea.

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Where to Stay Near Katskhi Pillar

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

There are a few small villages located near Katskhi Pillar, and the closest one is Chiatura. There are a few hotels and guesthouses in Chiatura, and it’s a convenient place to stay if you’re visiting the Pillar.

Another option is to stay in Tbilisi, which is the capital of Georgia. Tbilisi is about four hours away from Katskhi Pillar, but it’s a convenient place to fly into fascinating if you’re coming from outside of Georgia.

There are plenty of hotels and guesthouses in Tbilisi, and it’s a great base for exploring the rest of Georgia.

Other Attractions in Georgia

Panoramic view of Tbilisi at sunset
vvvita / Shutterstock

There are many other attractions in Georgia that are worth exploring. Some of the most popular include the following:

  1. The Black Sea Coast – This beautiful coastline is home to sandy beaches, stunning cliffs, and crystal-clear waters. It’s a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
  2. Tbilisi – Georgia’s capital city is a bustling metropolis with a lot to offer. From its stunning architecture to its vibrant nightlife, there’s something for everyone in Tbilisi.
  3. The Caucasus Mountains – These mountains are home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. They’re perfect for hiking, camping, and simply taking in the stunning views.
  4. Mtskheta – This small town is located just outside of Tbilisi and is home to some of Georgia’s most important historical sites. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in Georgian history and culture.
  5. Svaneti – This region is home to Georgia’s highest mountains and is a popular destination for winter sports. It’s also home to some of the country’s most beautiful villages.

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