The first structure of the Tatev Monastery complex dates back to the 4th century, while the main church was built in the 10th century. Since then, the monastery was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt from ruins for a number of times. The last restoration was completed almost before the very collapse of the Soviet Union, after which Tatev became a functioning temple. In the Middle Ages, it was the residence of bishops of the Syunik region. The famous University of Tatev – the place where a philosopher and theologian Grigor Tatevatsi used to work – was located here. His depiction in a manuscript dating 1449 is one of the most famous Armenian miniatures, which is currently displayed in the museum of Matenadaran. The pendulous column called Gavazan Syun or “a Shepherd’s Staff” had a specific purpose: it swang to alert of a possible earthquake or approach of enemy troops. In the 20th century, a group of scientists and architects dismantled the column to understand how it operated; unfortunately, they neither solved the column mystery, nor collected it correctly. Gavazan is no more a swinging-column, as it used to be.
The world’s longest reversible aerial tramway, the “Wings of Tatev”, included in the Guinness Book of Records, leads straight to the monastery. By the way, the name of the monastery is translated as “give wings” – according to the legend, after completing the construction works of the monastery, the architect of Tatev prayed to God asking for wings and flew away.