SITTING on top of a 130-foot stone pillar is the farthest and possibly tallest church in the world.
For years, mystery has surrounded the Katshki Pillar in Georgia, as it remains unclear how the church ended up on top of the monolithic limestone structure or who first built it.
The mysterious structure is considered in local legend to be a “pillar of life” and a “symbol of the true cross” – on which Jesus was crucified in the Bible.
Much like Stonehenge or the Pyramids, historians are still grappling with exactly how the structures were built on top of the towering pillar.
Not much is known about the Sacred Church except that it was abandoned until a climber and his team climbed the 130-foot natural structure in 1944.
Alexander Japaridze and his team reported finding the remains of two churches dating from the 5th and 6th centuries.
During these centuries the religious practice of asceticism has been practiced and has seen monks and priests refrain from pleasures in the pursuit of spiritual goals.
But more recent studies have put the church back to the ninth or tenth century.
This still means that the earliest foundations of the church are probably over 1,000 years old.
Visitors are prohibited from visiting the striking structure as the climb up the pillar is considered too dangerous.
The mysterious chapel is located about 200 km from the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi.
But the hardest part of the hike to this remarkable landmark is yet to come.
The rest of the pilgrimage is done on foot and consists of a hike before reaching the base of the stone pillar.
And then you’re faced with a 20 minute climb up a narrow steel ladder – if visitors are allowed to make the climb.
The monastery at the bottom of the structure was dedicated to Maximum the Confessor – a monk born in AD 580.
For those who are brave enough, a ladder posed along the 130-foot pillar is the only way to get inside the structure.
Monks are now the only people allowed to make the cliffside pilgrimage to the isolated church.
At the base of the pillar still stand a crypt, a wine cellar, three hermit cells and a small fortification.
More recent studies have shown that the sacred structures were built between the 9th and 10th centuries.
In the 1990s, religious life at the top of the pillar was revived and in 2005 the monastery was rebuilt.
For 20 years, Father Maxime Qavtaradze lived in the sacred church with the aim of bringing him closer to God.
During those two decades, he repaired the 1,200-year-old church and would only leave the pillar two days a week.
And that was Patriarch Ilia II, the spiritual leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church. who ordered the tourists should be banned from making the ascent.
The head of the monastery, Ilarion, told CNN: “The patriarch has made an order declaring that only monks can enter the church at the top of the pillar.
“Until he cancels this order, we are not allowed to let visitors through.”