Sanahin Monastery - History and Facts | History Hit

Sanahin Monastery

Alaverdi, Lori Province, Armenia

The Sanahin Monastery is a 10th century religious complex in Armenia’s Lori region.

Peta Stamper

05 Jul 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Sanahin Monastery

Sanahin Monastery is a medieval ecclesiastical complex high above the Debet Gorge in Armenia’s Lori region. The name Sanahin, literally translated as ‘the older one’ is a reference to the later monastery of Haghpat, which is coupled with Sanahin Monastery on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites.

Sanahin Monastery history

Made up of several chapels and churches, Sanahin Monastery was originally constructed in 967 AD during the reign of Queen Khosrovanoush and expanded over the 12th and 13th centuries to include a three-aisled gavit hall, a vaulted library and a bell tower. During this time, the monastery was a school for calligraphers, philosophers and scientists, as well as a library. Sanahin Monastery saw science and religion living together harmoniously.

Under constant attack from the elements and invaders, many attempts have been made to protect and restore Sanahin Monastery. One such attempt was the construction of the Kaian Fortress in 1233 to shield the holy structures from Mongol attacks.

Sanahin Monastery today

Visiting Sanahin Monastery, one is overcome with a sense of history exuded by this site. Evocative chapels, old graves and the classrooms of the Academy of Gregory Magistros combine to create an authentic experience.

Highlights to any visit include visiting the temple of St Gregory the Illuminator, built in the 11th century, the scriptorium and the ancient graves of notable people such as princes Zakharid and Argutin-Dolgoruky.

There is no entrance fee to visitors of the monastery, but there is a terrace café and kiosk nearby for those in need of snacks. You can also walk between the Sanahin and Haghpat monasteries which takes around 35 minutes through the stunning countryside.

Getting to Sanahin Monastery

You can get the bus from Yerevan to Sanahin Monastery which takes about 3 and a half hours. However, the bus does not go direct so you will need a minibus from Kilikia Bus Station in Yerevan to Alaverdi and from there can get a taxi to Sanahin (about 10 kilomteres). An easier alternative might be to rent a car and drive yourself via the AH81 or M4.