In 423, St. Simeon the Elder decided that he wanted to avoid worldly temptations. He climbed a pillar in Syria, where he lived on a small platform until his death 37 years later. He became very well known for this idea, and it encouraged other Christian ascetics to do the same thing. They became known as Stylites. The Stylites found many places to live alone, including a tall rock called the Katskhi Pillar in western Georgia. This practice continued until the 15th century when the Ottoman invaded Georgia.
No one stood on top of Katskhi Pillar for centuries until climbers ascended it in 1944. When they reached the top, they found the ruins of a small church and 600 year old bones of the last Stylite who had lived and died atop the pillar.
In 1993, a man named Maxime Qavtaradze took his monastic vows and decided to bring back the Stylite tradition. He had a recent stretch in prison, and decided he needed to be alone with God. He moved on top of the pillar and began rebuilding the monastery complex, chapel, and hermitage.
Since then, he has lived completely alone high atop the 131 foot rock pillar. His food and drinks are delivered via a winch, and he undertakes a 20 minute ladder climb to leave or enter his home. He comes down once or twice a week to visit with devotees who come for help to the monastery at the base of the pillar.
Once Maxime is too frail to use the ladder, he intends to remain at the top until his death.
The crypt under the chapel holds the bones of the previous Stylite who made his home there. Qavtaradze intends for his remains to be placed in the same crypt once his time comes, staying rooted to his spot on top of the pillar even in death.
It’s an incredible life decision, but Maxime seems very content with his solitude. He will continue to live atop the pillar until he passes on, but I’m not so sure there is anyone waiting to take his place.