Founded in the 10th century, Sanahin possessed vast lands and had 300-500 members in its brethren, including scientists and cultural activists. Shortly after the monastery’s establishment, the school adjacent to the monastery has been converted into the Grigor Magistros Pahlavuni Academy.
Sanahin resides in the vicinity of the canyon of the Debed River, not too far from the town of Alaverdi, Lori Province, Armenia. It is one of the main medieval cultural centers of Armenia.
In contrast to the 10th-11th centuries, today, the monastery occupies a small 2ha territory. Apart from the main temple of Sanahin, the Surb Astvatsatsin Church, the complex includes the 10th-century Amenaprkich Church, the Surb Grigor Chapel, and a gallery building; the 11th-century academy building and book repository; a 12th-century vestibule; and a 13th-century 3-level bell tower.
The Surb Astvatsatsin Church is the oldest preserved structure of the monastery. On the other hand is the Amenaprkich Church, the largest monument of Sanahin. Lastly, the Sanahin book repository, a unique building with an octahedral dome, is the largest medieval book repository in Armenia.
The different-era buildings of Sanahin have created a harmonic architectural ensemble. The most remarkable structures of Sanahin are the crossed-dome Surb Astvatsatsin and Amenaprkich Churches. To ensure protection against earthquakes, an arched gallery-school was built between the two churches in the 10th century.
The monastery houses the royal tombs of the Armenian Zakarid and the Argutinski-Dolgoruky dynasties. The dedicatory inscriptions of a Zakarid princess along with figures of wild cats decorate an arched bridge over the Deved River in the nearby canyon.
The monastery has had a short-lived history. It was plundered by the Seljuks in 1064 and by the Persians in 1104. An 1139 earthquake nearly razed the Sanahin Monastery. The 10th-century Sanahin church complex is now included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
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