Sanahin monastery was one of the largest spiritual, cultural and educational centres of medieval Armenia. The monastery is situated on a hill, on the right bank of Debet river, from where picturesque views to surrounding forests and mountains are opened.
Now the monastery is one of the famous sights of Armenia. But at the same time, it continues to be an important spiritual centre for Armenians and not only.
Like many other Christian churches, Sanahin was built in the place of a pagan temple. According to the legend, Gregory the Illuminator put a wooden cross(Surb Nshan) on the pagan temple, on the basis of which Sanahin was raised.
The name of the monastery is associated with the rivalry between Sanahin and Haghpat monasteries. When the Haghpat monastery was built, people living in Sanahin said: "This one is older".
Being one of the largest scientific centres of its time, in Sanahin, not only theology was studied, but also music, medicine, and scientific books were written. Here was the Seminary of Grigor Magistros.
Many famous writers, illustrators, and miniaturists worked here.
Sanahin was built in the X century. As a single complex, the monastery was formed for about 300 years. The monastery complex included both religious and civil buildings.
The complex includes churches, book depository-matenadaran, porches, belfry, patrimonial sepulchers, seminary, many khachkars. Sanahin monastery was surrounded by strong protective walls. Behind the wall of the monastery, there were water sources, chapels, khachkars, small churches, and Sanahin bridge.
In the centre of the complex stands St. Astvatsatsin church, built in the X century. This is the complex's oldest structure. The whole monastery was formed around it. This church has a characteristic form of construction for this time: rectangular on the outside and cruciform-inside.
Next to St. Astvatsatsin stands the church of St. Amenaprkich, which is similar to St. Astvatsatsin but it is larger in size. The walls of the church were decorated with frescoes, which unfortunately haven't reached our days.
The porches of both are the largest structures of the complex and were able to keep a large number of people. They were also served as a burial places for the saints. This is why the floors are covered with tombstones.
The seminary or "The Academy of Grigor Magistros" is one of the significant civil buildings. It is the continuation of St. Astvatsatsin church's porch.
As in Haghpat, the belfry of Sanahin is one of the earliest belfries of Armenia. It's a three-storey building with small sacristies.
The book depository-matenadaran is one of the most interesting structures of Sanahin. It's the oldest and the largest book-depository of its time. The decoration of Matenadaran deserves special attention. The four walls of the hall show four sides of the world.
On the eastern side, there's a theological column, and the four fundamental sciences of Grigor Magistros are presented- arithmetic, geometry, astrology, and music.
On the western side logic, oratory, and grammar are presented.
And on the northern side, there are semantics and philosophy. Here is the vardapet's mace. The monks defended their theses to become vardapet- to become an educated monk, having the right to teach.
The northern wall shows monasticism and cultural diversity.
Grigor's chapel, built in the X century, adjoins the book depository from the south-east. Outside- the chapel is round, and inside it has four apses.
Also, the sepulchers were built here to bury princely families.
Sanahin khachkars have a special value, too.
It's worth to mention that the bridge over Debet river is the largest single-span bridge among many bridges on Debet River.