Gavazan – the Pendulous Column of Tatev Monastery, Armenia

Gavazan is a unique work of medieval engineering. Erected 2 years earlier (in 902) than the Tatev monastic complex, it is dedicated to the Holy Trinity.

Gavazan is an octahedral stone pillar standing 8.3 meters tall. The pillar is divided into 12 segments and features images of clocks and birds.

On the top stands a stone depiction of the globe ornamented with spiral patterns. In its turn, the globe is crowned with a khachkar (cross-stone).

The column was constructed with a special pivoting-base technique which allowed it to tilt as a result of seismic tremors, and even at the mere touch of a human hand, and then returns to its initial position.

The column was designed so that by swaying, it worked as an early warning system – alerting the monks not only about earthquakes but also about the distant tremors caused by the approach of invading armies.

Gavazan is a precise celestial compass oriented at the Orion’s Belt, with which it was possible to calculate a year and the so-called astrological age [25,920 years].

When looking east and towards the pillar on August 10-11, 2012, the Orion’s Belt rose vertically at the latitude of the Tatev Monastery and formed a straight line right above the pillar. It will happen again after 25,920 years.

by Merike Joosep

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