Qavtaradze is following in the ancient
traditions of the Stylites, or Pillar Saints:
men of the Byzantine world who believed residing
up pillars would remove them from temptation and
provide ample opportunity for prayer and
life on the Katskhi Pillar, Mr Qavtaradze's
limestone monolith which stands in the Caucasus
Mountains that run through Georgia, was tough
for the monk.
first two years there was nothing up here so I
slept in an old fridge to protect me from the
weather," said the 59-year-old monk. Later,
Christian supporters renovated a derelict chapel
and built a cottage to provide him with a few
Qavtaradze makes the 20 minute and perilous
climb down a ladder attached to the pillar twice
a week to pray at a small monastery at the foot
of the tower. But he relies on daily provisions
winched to him by supporters on the ground.
to Stylites, the Katskhi Pillar had remained
derelict for centuries, and it was only in 1944
that a team of climbers scaled the tower,
finding at the top the skeleton of its last
occupant. Mr Qavtaradze moved in 1993 after
taking his monastic vows, and found it moved him
closer to God and help banish a troubled past.
"It is up
here in the silence that you can feel God's
presence," he said. "When I was young I drank,
sold drugs, everything. When I ended up in
prison I knew it was time for a change.
"I used to
drink with friends in the hills around here and
look up at this place, where land met sky," he
added. "We knew the monks had lived up there
before and I felt great respect for them."
Katskhi Pillar, Georgia