These Byzantine monastery in the Tumanian region from the period of prosperity during the Kiurikian dynasty (10th-13th centuries) is an important center of learning. Sanahin was renowned for its school of illuminators and calligraphers. IT is an exceptional example of the ‘domed hall’ ecclesiastical architecture that developed in Armenia from the 10th to the 13th centuries, which blended elements of both Byzantine church architecture and the traditional vernacular building style of this region.
The Sanahin Monastery consists of a large group of buildings on the plateau above the Debet gorge and skilfully integrated into the impressive mountain landscape. The buildings are laid out on two rectangular axes, with their facades facing west. The main church, built in the 10th century, is the Cathedral of the Redeemer. The emphasis of the cross-shaped interior is on the central nucleus and the harmony between the square base and the circular dome. The central dome in this case is surrounded by four two-storey sacristies or chapels. To the west there is a four-columned gavit built in 1181. Its plan is that of a cross inscribed in a square. Lighting is by means of an aperture in the centre of the dome. This is the earliest known example of this type of structure, which owes its origins to Armenian peasant dwellings consisting of square rooms with four free-standing pillars supporting the roof and a central hole to allow smoke to be dispersed.

Historical Description

Christianity played a crucial role in the development of Armenian art and architecture. The “classic” style developed in the 5th-7th centuries, but its further evolution came to an abrupt halt with the Arab occupation that began at the end of the 7th century. Armenia became independent again at the end of the 9th century and Armenian art was revived when the kingdom was consolidated and national identity re-established. The two monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin date from this period, during the prosperity of the Kiurikian dynasty and the Zakarian Princes. They were important centres of learning, housing some 500 monks, and bear eloquent testimony to the highest achievement of Armenian architecture.

You can find more information on Armenian Properties inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List here: