Gavazan - The Swinging Column

The Swinging Column, also known in Armenian as the Gavazan (cane), is a unique work of medieval engineering. Erected in 904 in the courtyard of the Tatev monastic complex, this eight-meter octahedral pillar is crowned with a cross-stone and is dedicated to the Holy Trinity. It 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 return to its initial position. It is said that 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.

There is much interesting speculation about the purpose of the Swinging Column. But the fact remains that it is a true engineering marvel which demonstrates the culture of innovation and intellectual exploration nurtured at Tatev Monastery.


Having survived for over one thousand years, the Swinging Column collapsed in the 1931 earthquake which ravaged the entire monastery. It was reassembled, but held together with temporary metal braces, and its swinging mechanism was blocked as a precaution. The restoration of this unique monument is a fascinating engineering challenge. The braces must be removed and the column must be restored in such a way that it will sway in its original fashion while remaining structurally robust.


Cost:                   $96,000

Funded:               $0

Needed:                   $96,000


Target completion date:   August 2012