Sanahin Monastery


The architectural complexes of Sanahin and Haghpat are among the outstanding works of medieval Armenian architecture. The exact date of the foundation of Sanahin and Haghpat is unknown. Documentary evidence and monuments of material culture suggest that these structures date back to the middle of the 10th century.

After the institution of the bishops throne in Sanahin in 979, the eastern, facade of Amenaprkich church, and the parts of the southern and northern facades adjacent to it were decorated with arcatures which enriched the outward appearance of the building. The annex of Amenaprkich church belongs to the four-pillar type. It was built in 1181 by the architect Jhamhair at the expense of Father Superior Ovanes and the prince’s family.

The church of Harutyun in Sanahin, dating back to the early 13th century, is interesting from the point of view of its composition. Its interior is distinguished by two identical altar apses. Grigory chapel, of the same church is a miniature concentric domed structure of the late 10th century. Its plan is circular on the outside. The vestry of Astvatsatsin church in Sanahin, erected by Prince Vache Vachutian in 1211, is of a different type. It is a three-nave hall covered with vaults and steep two-slope roofs. The arrangement of the naves emphasizes the lateral axis of the complex. The columns of the interior are similar, differing only in the shape of the bases, shafts, capitals and in their ornamentation. Sanahin’s bell-tower, built between 1211 and 1235, is of severe and laconic appearance. The bell-tower is crowned with a light rotunda, which became a characteristic feature of later separate bell-towers of Armenia. Sanahin and Haghpat complexes are especially rich in khachkars (more than 80 of them have survived), which were intended not only as memorials. Some of them were installed to mark various events: in Sanahin, one was put up on the occasion of building a bridge in 1192, another one, of building an inn in 1205 and the others. Most of the khachkar have the traditional shape of a cross.


The monasteries at Haghpat and Sanahin were chosen as UNESCO World Heritage.