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Tatev 8: Gavazan(17). Other.

Gavazan (17)

This unique tower dedicated to the Holy Trinity was erected in 906 at its present spot near the Bishop's residence, facing the southern wall of Poghos-Petros church. The eight-sided pillar is topped by a capital that held a hidden hinge which in turn holds a khachkar (stone cross). The metal bands are not used to keep the pillar of stones from falling apart; instead the pillar was engineered with hinges so that it could “swing” or “shake”. There are two thoughts about why it was built like this. One says the pillar was a monitoring device, built so that it would move during earth tremors (a use for which it excelled, surviving into the modern age with minimal damage from natural disasters). The other says it was designed as a type of defense; when pushed it would bend over and then safely right itself and it is reported to have terrified Seljuk warriors who entered the compound, sending them fleeing from the “demonic tower”.

The Refectory (18), Kitchen (19), Bakery (20), Bishop Residence & Offices (21) and cells (11) are off the inner courtyard. Two rooms have arched wall-sized openings looking directly onto Vorotan canyon—there is no sign of there ever having been a wall, suggesting they were deliberately built that way. There is a large vaulted kitchen, a bakery with tonirs (buried ceramic jars in which to bake Armenian lavash – paper thin bread) in the floor with a gigantic fireplace and a number of hallways and monk cells to explore.

Climb onto the roof for good views of the courtyard and canyon, but be careful of ceiling holes or fireplace chimney spouts flush with the roof line -- they are not marked and easily hidden in the grass growing on the monastery roof.


The rest of the complex is made up of numerous rooms built into the defensive walls. They include the monastery manuscriptorium and mate-nadaran (10), now a museum of items found in church excavations, including one of the 14th century bells; dwellings and service rooms (11) and a stable (8) on the northern side which once had a second floor dormitory for students of the university. Others are the pilgrim inn (9) and medieval baths (22) from which there are preserved clay pipes in the museum. A sixteen room school (23) along the northeastern battlements was built in 1780 and used until the Soviet era to educate local youths. In addition to the monastery complex structures, the canyon walls around the site still hold artifacts from the monastery's past, including secret depositories carved from solid rock.

Original text edited and approved by the Holy See Echmiadzin