Modern Stylite Hermit

From the always valuable Hermitary, references to a modern stylite, Maxime Qavtaradze, a 59-year-old monk, who has lived a life of virtual solitude on top of a pillar high above his Georgian monastery for 20 years: http://hermitary.com/around/?p=1058 and a documentary on his life, “Upon this Rock”: http://www.hermitary.com/films/. See also http://modernstylite.blogspot.com.au/
stylite 2
A lengthy article on Maxime is found in the “Daily Mail” (UK): http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2384040/Maxime-Meet-monk-lives-life-virtual-solitude-131ft-pillar.html A further article with spectacular photographs is found in the “Huffington Post”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/19/katskhi-pillar-monk-georgia-maxime-qavtaradze_n_3950192.html together with a trailer for “The Stylite,” an independent film directed by Stephen Riehl. A short video (commentary not in English) is also found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWRLuft-ROA
stylite 1
The Katskhi Pillar on which Maxime lives was used by stylites, Christians who lived on top of pillars to avoid worldly temptation until the 15th century when the practice was stopped following the Ottoman invasion of Georgia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katskhi_pillar , http://www.amazingplacesonearth.com/katskhi-pillar-georgia/ For centuries the 40 metres (130ft) high pillar lay abandoned and locals could only look up at the mysterious ruins at its summit.
stylite 3
Finally, in 1944 a group led by the mountaineer Alexander Japaridze made the first documented ascent of the pillar and discovered the remains of a chapel and the skeleton of a stylite who had perished there.

Shortly after the collapse of communism, and the subsequent resurgence of religion in Georgia, Maxime decided to live atop the pillar in the way of the old stylites. In 1993 Maxime took monastic vows and climbed the pillar to begin his new life. “For the first two years there was nothing up here so I slept in an old fridge to protect me from the weather.”
stylite 4
Since then Maxime and the Christian community in the area have constructed a ladder to the top, rebuilt the church, and built a cottage where Maxime spends his days praying, reading, and “preparing to meet God”. As a result of the interest in the site there is now a religious community at the base of the pillar.
stylite 5
Maxime follows in the – long essentially lost and forgotten – tradition of Stylites (from Greek stylos, “pillar”, Classical Syriac: ܐܣܛܘܢܐ ʼasṯonáyé) or Pillar-Saints are a type of Christian ascetic who in the early days of the Byzantine Empire stood on pillars preaching, fasting and praying. They believed that the mortification of their bodies would help ensure the salvation of their souls. The first stylite was probably Simeon Stylites the Elder who climbed on a pillar in Syria in 423 and remained there until his death 37 years later: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stylites

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