Sitting atop a 130-foot stone pillar is the most remote and possibly the highest church in the world.
For years mystery has surrounded the Katshki Pillar in Georgia as it remains unknown how the church got on top of the monolith limestone structure or who first built it.
The mysterious structure is viewed in local legend as a “pillar of life” and a “symbol of the true cross” – upon which Jesus was crucified in the Bible.
Much like Stonehenge or the Pyramids, historians are still probing exactly how the structures was built atop the towering pillar.
Not much is known about the sacred church except that it was abandoned until a mountaineer and his team climbed the 130ft natural structure in 1944.
Alexander Japaridze and his team reported finding the remains of two churches dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries.
During those centuries the religious practice of Asceticism was practiced and saw monks and priests abstain from pleasures in the pursuit of spiritual goals.
But more recent studies have dated the church back to the ninth or tenth century.
It still means the earliest foundations of the church likely date back more than 1000 years.
Visitors are banned from visiting the striking structure as the climb up the pillar is considered too dangerous.
The mysterious chapel is situated around 125 miles from Georgia’s capital city Tbilisi.
But the hardest part of the trek to the remarkable landmark is yet to come.
The next part of the pilgrimage is done by foot and consists of a hike before reaching the base of the stone pillar.
And then you are faced with a 20-minute climb up a narrow steel ladder – if visitors are allowed to make the ascent.
The monastery at the bottom of the structure has been dedicated to Maximum the Confessor – a monk born in 580AD.
For those brave enough, a ladder resting alongside the 130ft pillar is the only way to get inside the structure.
Monks are now the only people allowed to make the pilgrimage up the sheer cliffside to the remote church.
At the base of the pillar, a crypt, a wine cellar, three hermit cells and a small fortification still stands.
More recent studies have shown that the holy structures are believed to have been built between the ninth and tenth centuries.
In the 1990s, religious life on top of the pillar was revived and in 2005, the monastery was rebuilt.
For 20 years Father Maxime Qavtaradze lived in the sacred church in a bid to bring him closer to God.
During those two decades, he fixed the 1,200-year-old church and would only leave the pillar two days a week.
And it was Patriarch Ilia II, the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church. who ordered the tourists should be banned from making the climb.
Monastery head Leader Ilarion told CNN: “The Patriarch passed an order stating that only the monks can enter the church at the top of the pillar.
“Until he overturns that order, we are not allowed to let any visitors up.”
Original Article: Mystery of world’s loneliest church which sits alone atop 130ft stone pillar & no one knows how it got there (the-sun.com)