The monastery of Tatev is located in Syunik region, in Armenia. It is situated on a height, on the right side of Vorotan river's gorge. With its majestic look, the monastery rises over the surrounding mountains and keeps the peace of the nearby villages, mountains, forests, and gorges.
Christian history of Tatev started from the first century BC, but as other Christian churches, Tatev was also built in the place of a more ancient temple- in the place of the temple dedicated to the goddess of water and love Astghik. The first structure here was built by the student of Apostle Thaddeus, Eustathius(Eustateos in Arm.) So, we can say that the Christian monastery of Tatev has a 2000-year history.
Afterward the name Tatev appeared from the abbreviation of Eustathius. Here's another version- another legend associated with the name "Tatev". According to it, after completing the construction of the monastery, the master asked for two pieces of wood and, standing on the edge of the gorge, said: “Let the Holy Spirit send wings” (“Help Holy Spirit, Ta Tever”(Give Wings)).
In the V century, Tatev became a place of pilgrimage, but after that, until the VIII century, the name Tatev wasn't mentioned in history. At the end of the VIII century, Tatev became the episcopate of Syunik. Despite, Tatev was the most important political centre of Syunik principality. Due to its inaccessible position, the monastery had a defensive function, too.
In 839 the church of Gregory the Illuminator was built. This is the oldest church of the monastery complex.
In the IX century, a half-destroyed church, built by Gregory the Illuminator was still standing here. Bishop Hovhannes prayed to God, asking whether he could destroy this church and build a new one. Getting permission, he started the construction of a new church. When the old temple was destroyed, a box with the relics of St. Peter and Paul, and with a signet from Gregory the Illuminator's ring were found. By putting his signet, Bishop Hovhannes hid those relics at the base of a new church- the Church of St. Paul and Peter.
Especially impresses the dome of the church, which is one of the highest domes in Armenia. In the church, on the wall, there is a preserved fresco of the X century, which gives an idea of the early medieval Armenian art.
A wall was being built around the monastery. Caches, storerooms, cells, a dining-room, a butter churn, workshops, a porch near the church of St. Peter and Paul, a library, a tomb of the princely family of Syunik were built. Also, a complicated system of underground passages, remaining from the ancient temple, was restored. One of the passages led to the very bottom of the gorge, to Tatev desert. At the moment, almost all the passages are closed.
At that time about 500 monks lived here. 1000 manuscripts were kept in the monastery. So, started the heyday of Tatev monastery. The University of Tatev, one of the most famous universities of the Middle Ages, started to work.
In 1087, the Church of the Holy Mother of God was consecrated.
Gavazan (the pillar), dedicated to the Holy Trinity has a special place among the buildings of the monastery. Built-in 906 pillar is made by the swivel principle and it also shakes. This is the only structure of the monastery, which wasn't destroyed under the influence of nature and humans. The pillar has a height of 8.3 m and is crowned with a khachkar. According to the official version, this pillar was built to warn about an earthquake or about an approaching enemy.
In fact, this pillar has another purpose, too. It was built on 11 of August- on the day of the ancient Armenian New Year(Navasard). It is an exact celestial compass and is oriented towards Hayk-Orion constellation. The pillar shows the zero mark of time and can be used to calculate not only the light-year (25920 years) but also an earth-year.
During the invasion of 1170, the Seljuk Turks robbed the monastery and burnt almost all manuscripts. The monastery was restored at the end of the XII and the beginning of the XIII centuries. At that period- in 1286, the chapel of St. Peter and Paul was being built, in 1295 the church of Gregory the Illuminator was completely restored, two large bells were cast, which are still on the belfry.
During the invasion of Tamerlane in the XIV century, his army robbed and burnt the monastery. After this, the monastery started its humble activity. The school building with 16 classes was built in the XVIII century. The sepulcher of Grigor Tatevatsi was built in 1787. Grigor Tatevatsi was a famous scientist and theologian, rector of Tatev University, who spent 20 years of his life there.
Now, the monastery has been completely restored. It is one of the most important spiritual centres of Syunik and Armenia. Also, Tatev is one of the best-known tourist centres of Armenia. Due to Tatever cable car built above Vorotan gorge in 2010, which also entered the Guinness Book of Records as the longest pendulum passenger cable car, the monastery visitors have an opportunity not only to get to Tatev from the village of Halidzor, but also to admire the beautiful view of the gorge from bird's eye view.