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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

9/6/2013 (7 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Food, supplies winched up to him by his followers

Maxime Qavtaradze, a 59-year-old monk, has taken his devotion to God - to new heights -- literally. Qavtaradze has lived a life of virtual solitude on top of a pillar high above his Georgian monastery for 20 years.

For centuries the 131-foot high pillar lay abandoned and locals could only look up at the mysterious ruins at its summit.

For centuries the 131-foot high pillar lay abandoned and locals could only look up at the mysterious ruins at its summit.

Article Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

9/6/2013 (7 months ago)

Published in Europe

Keywords: Monk, Georgia, solitude, dedication,


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When he wants to leave the Katskhi Pillar, he spends 20 minutes getting down a 131-foot ladder. Supplies are winched up to him by his followers. He only comes down twice a week to pray with his followers.

Having worked as a crane operator before taking his orders in 1993, Maxime has always had a head for heights. "It is up here in the silence that you can feel God's presence," he says.

Maxime stands by the church on top of the Katskhi Pillar looking at the beautiful view. He has lived

Pillar looking at the beautiful view. He has lived a life of virtual solitude on top of a pillar high above his Georgian monastery for 20 years


 His only visitors are priests along with a group of troubled young men who seek solace in the monastery at the foot of the pillar.
Photographer Amos Chapple paid a visit to Maxime. He was not at first allowed up onto the pillar. Chapple had to spend four days taking part in seven hours of daily prayers including a four hour stint from 2 a.m. until sunrise.

Maxime next to his cottage on top of the Katskhi Pillar. When he wants to leave Katskhi pillar, he s

Maxime next to his cottage on top of the Katskhi Pillar. When he wants to leave Katskhi pillar, he spends 20 minutes climbing down a 131-foot ladder


Finally allowed to scale the "dicey" ladder to the top, he was worried that it might be too dark to get back down. Reaching the top, Maxime told Amos that he became a monk after a stretch in prison and decided he wanted to make a change.

He first slept in a refrigerator when he first moved to the top of the pillar. He now has a bed inside a cottage.

The Katskhi Pillar was used by stylites, Christians who lived on top of pillars to avoid worldly temptation until the 15th century when the practice was stopped following the Ottoman invasion of Georgia.

Sergo Mikhelidze and a friend deliver lunch to Maxime at the top of the Katskhi Pillar by winch up s

Sergo Mikhelidze and a friend deliver lunch to Maxime at the top of the Katskhi Pillar by winch up supplies to the monk who has cut himself off from society.


For centuries the 131-foot high pillar lay abandoned and locals could only look up at the mysterious ruins at its summit.

A group led by the mountaineer Alexander Japaridze in 1944 made the first documented ascent of the pillar and discovered the remains of a chapel and the skeleton of a stylite who had perished there.

Maxime inside his cottage on top of the Katskhi Pillar. Shortly after the collapse of communism, and

Maxime inside his cottage on top of the Katskhi Pillar. Shortly after the collapse of communism, and the subsequent resurgence of religion in Georgia, Maxime decided to live atop the pillar in the way of the old stylites.


With the collapse of communism, and the resurgence of religion in Georgia, Maxime decided to live atop the pillar in the way of the old stylites.

"When I was young I drank, sold drugs, everything. When I ended up in prison I knew it was time for a change.

Maxime receives his lunch at the top of the Katskhi Pillar. His supporters winch supplies up a 131-f

Maxime receives his lunch at the top of the Katskhi Pillar. His supporters winch supplies up a 131-foot ladder.


"I used to drink with friends in the hills around here and look up at this place, where land met sky.
"We knew the monks had lived up there before and I felt great respect for them."

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