January 19th celebrates the memory of a Georgian saint: Venerable Anton of Martqopi, the Stylite. He is one of the Thirteen Syrian Fathers who settled in Georgia during the 6th century to preach the Gospel and are credited with establishing monasticism in Georgia. St Anton was known for always carrying with him an icon of the Saviour “not made by hands”, and it is notable that the monks who came to Georgia to evangelize would use icons for this purpose. Indeed, the original “not-made-by-hands” icon was instrumental in bringing about the conversion of Edessa.
A pagan nobleman who encountered the saint holding the icon and surrounded by deer (closeness to wild animals being a feature of many ascetic saints) was driven by fear to have the icon removed from Anton by chopping off his hands. This was miraculously prevented and this event helped in convincing many of the truth of Christianity.
After establishing monasteries, St Anton spent the last years of his life in seclusion, retreating into the wilderness and living atop a pillar (from where he gets his title of Stylite), although he could not prevent many people coming to him with petitions and seeking advice. After his repose, St Anton was buried in the monastery he founded – still holding onto the icon of his Saviour.