The Katskhi pillar (Georgian: კაცხის სვეტი, kac'xis svet'i) is a natural limestone monolith located at the village of Katskhi in western Georgian region of Imereti, near the town of Chiatura. It is approximately 40 metres (130 ft) high, and overlooks the small river valley of Katskhura, a right affluent of the Q'virila.
The rock, with visible church ruins on its top surface of around 150 m2, has been venerated by locals as the Pillar of Life, symbolizing the True Cross, and has become surrounded by legends. It remained unclimbed by researchers and unsurveyed until 1944 and was more systematically studied from 1999 to 2009. These studies revealed the early medieval hermitage, dating from the 9th or 10th century. A Georgian inscription paleographically dated to the 13th century suggests that the hermitage was still extant at that time. Religious activity associated with the pillar started to revive in the 1990s and the monastery building had been restored within the framework of a state-funded program by 2009.
In historical records, the Katskhi pillar is first mentioned by the 18th-century Georgian scholar Prince Vakhushti, who reports in his Geographic Description of the Kingdom of Georgia: "There is a rock within the ravine standing like a pillar, considerably high. There is a small church on the top of the rock, but nobody is able to ascend it; nor know they how to do that."
No other written accounts of monastic life or ascents survive. A number of local legends surround the pillar. One of them has it that the top of the rock was connected by a long iron chain to the dome of the Katskhi church, located at a distance of around 1.5 km from the pillar.
n July 1944 a group led by the mountaineer Alexander Japaridze and the writer Levan Gotua made the first documented ascent of the Katskhi pillar. Vakhtang Tsintsadze, an architecture specialist with the group, reported in his 1946 paper that the ruins found on top of the rock were remains of two churches, dating from the 5th and 6th centuries and associated with a stylite practice, a form of Christian asceticism. Since 1999, the Katskhi pillar has become the subject of more systematic research.
Based on further studies and archaeological digs conducted in 2006, Giorgi Gagoshidze, an art historian with the Georgian National Museum, re-dated the structures to the 9th–10th century. He concluded that this complex was composed of a monastery church and cells for hermits. Discovery of the remnants of a wine cellar also undermined the idea of extreme ascetism flourishing on the pillar.
In 2007, a small limestone plate with the asomtavruli Georgian inscriptions was found, paleographically dated to the 13th century and revealing the name of a certain "Giorgi", responsible for the construction of three hermit cells. The inscription also makes mention of the Pillar of Life, echoing the popular tradition of veneration of the rock as a symbol of the True Cross.