Throughout history, humans have been amazed by hilltops and mountain summits. The urge to be higher up than others, to reach further than others have, and to out-compete others is a tale as long as breath has been filling our lungs. This human condition, peppered with religious devotion, manifests itself perfectly in the Imereti Region in Georgia.
The small town of Katshki isn’t really worth mentioning. Along its main street, houses are scattered almost chaotically, while motoring through the town takes only half a minute. The interest starts to change with the encounter of a strangely formed rock in the distance. Only a small sign indicates the direction, leading your vehicle onto a bumpy road of mud and potholes. The SUV recommendation by the travel agent wasn’t the worst call after all. Navigating your wheels around the potholes, the grey rock transforms from a distant silhouette to an imposing natural artwork encapsulating our souls in its radiating aura. A detailed observation only further spurs the disbelief that such a rock can be formed without the human hand. But as so often happens, nature has beat the human mind once again, creating a beautiful 41m tall pillar inconceivable to the most elaborate of architects.
Ornamenting the top of the rock, the monastery and church are proof of the unstoppable human desire to conquer nature. Clearly, almighty god didn’t intercede such ambitions but was utilized as the ulterior motive. Slowing progressing towards the lower part of the formation, the quest to climb it is halted by the Patriarch’s decision to forbid touristic ascension. Perhaps the church desires to reserve a single ascension only to comply with the guidelines of the Holy Book. What a shame it would be if humans took a shortcut to heaven.
Only left with a look around the grounded part of the monastery, a little chapel provides the missing sacraments to faithful visitors, whereas unbelievers can purchase crosses and rosaries serving for their conversion. The short-lived experience remains as a snapshot of unique religious devotion in a country whose folks are notoriously the second most religious people in the world.
How to get there:
By Taxi from Chiatura – hourly buses from Tbilisi to Chiatura
By Car – Google Maps search with “Katshki Column”
By Benjamin Music
Photo: Levan Nioradze