Georgian Monk Renews Stylite Tradition, Lives Atop Pillar

In an isolated part of the Caucasus, a monk is spending his days in prayer and silence atop a 40-meter pillar of limestone in western Georgia (near the town of Chiatura). 

The Katskhi Pillar was used by stylites -- Christian ascetics who lived atop pillars and prayed without ceasing -- until the 15th century when the practice was stopped following the Ottoman Empire's invasion of Georgia. 

For centuries the pillar was abandoned and locals could only look up at the mysterious ruins on its summit. Finally, in 1944, a mountain climber ascended the pillar, discovering the skeleton of a stylite and the remains of a chapel. 

Shortly after the collapse of communism and the resurgence of religion in Georgia, a former convict, Maxime Qavtaradze (now 59), decided to live atop the pillar in the way of the old stylites. See more photos>>