Sanahin Monastery

Churches and Monasteries

Sanahin Monastery, perched on the wooded mountain slopes of Mt. Chantin, is right across the gorge from Haghpat Monastery. Its name literally translates as "this one is older than that one", reminiscent of the bygone feuds of the kingdoms ruling each church.

184 km

Sanahin was a major monastery in the region, its patrons, the Zakarians, expanded it to its height of eminence as a school of illuminators and calligraphers, as well as a college of religion, philosophy and science, during the 12-13th centuries.​Composed of five churches, two gavits, a theological college and book depository, a bell tower and other structures, it is encircled by a fortified wall, making it a formidable fortress in times of attack. Built into the nature that surrounds it, Sanahin has an irregular asymmetry, with all the buildings coming together to form an organic whole.

Founded by Queen Khosrovanush in 966, the magnificent Amenaprkich (All Savior) Church was once topped with a huge dome surrounded by two-tiered annexes. After numerous earthquakes, the dome was replaced by a lower one, and the walls widened and reinforced with arches. One remnant of the original walls, is the monumental sculpture of the Queen’s sons holding up a model of the church – the first such bas-relief in Armenian history!

The college had many notable calligraphers, artists and philosophers studied there, the most famous of which was the 11th century philosopher, writer and scientist, Grigor Magistros Pahlavuni. His remaining texts offer a wealth of information on the theology, literature, mythology, politics, natural sciences and medicine of the day. A true polymath, the Magistros, who predates Da Vinci by five hundred years, was an experienced physician, and continued the teachings of the neoplatonic philosophers by translating and linking ideas from Ancient Greek and Arabic, from Plato and Homer to Euclid’s Geometry.

Sanahin’s bell tower, along with Haghpat’s, were the first of their kind – three stories high, with intricate columns holding the belfry above, and huge ornately carved khachkars (cross stones) in different shades of red and yellow tuff stone contrasting with the black facades. Walk around the site and study the evolution of khachkars, from the old, simple designs of the 10th century, to the ornate 13th century stylized depictions of the Tree of Life.