Sanahin Monastery (Armenia) – description, history, location. Exact address and website. Tourist reviews, photos and videos.
The Sanahin monastery complex in the delta of the Debed river is considered to be one of the most inaccessible religious buildings in Armenia: it can be reached only on foot, having traveled many kilometers from Yerevan. Such a location was not chosen by chance: originally the monastery was meant for monks who fell out of favor with the Byzantine emperor Roman Lakapin. Built in 966 on the initiative of Prince Ashot III Bagratuni, the building was intended to provide fugitives with a safe shelter. Over time, in addition to its religious function, Sanahin became an educational institution: the monastery school was transformed into an academy, where Anania, Theodoros, Vardan and other prominent medieval Armenian scholars taught. Despite the difficult fate (the complex was repeatedly damaged by earthquakes and attacks of Arabs and Seljuk Turks), the temple survived. In 1996 it was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and was fully restored.
What to see in Sanahin Monastery
All the buildings in the complex are arranged in a semicircle around the central structure, Surb Astvatsatsin, which is a cross-domed temple made of roughly hewn basalt boulders. In earlier times, its interior space was decorated with colorful frescoes, but most of them have not stood the test of time.
The surviving fragments have been carefully restored: looking at them, it is easy to imagine what a marvelous look the church had before the paintings were destroyed.
Not far from the temple is the cross-domed Surb Amenaprkich, the largest building in the complex, which once served as the main cathedral of the Lori Kingdom. The facade of the building, made of smooth hewn basalt blocks, is embellished with a sculptural composition depicting the church’s patrons – Kyurike and Smbat. The church was badly damaged by earthquakes and enemy raids, and although it was fully restored, some of the unique elements of the decoration were irretrievably lost.
The builders of the complex were cunning: the passageway between the temples was built up to make them more stable during earthquakes. The resulting covered gallery was used by the monks as a lecture hall.
Close to the gallery, a book repository was erected, a square building topped by an eight-sided tent. The walls of the room were riddled with holes, where manuscripts and valuable utensils were kept. A roofed porch-mausoleum with graves of noblemen from the Zaharid family adjoined the building on the southern side. The three-tiered bell tower with a six-sided rotunda bell tower completed the list of sites on the territory of Sanahin. The first tier was a storehouse, the second was used as a chapel, and the third served as a working room for the scribes of manuscripts.
Practical information about Sanahin Monastery
You can get to Sanahin from Yerevan by cab or by renting a car (M-3 highway, GPS coordinates: 41.08684; 44.66615) and from Alaverdi by cable car.