Sanahin used to be the administrative centre and family burial place of the Kyurikyan Bagratids (10th and 11th centuries), as well as the Episcopal residence for the diocese (until the 11th century).

The Sanahin monastery contains St Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God), St Amenaprkich (Redeemer) and St Grigor Churches, narthexes, fore-church, scriptorium, belfry and academy. St Astvatsatsin Church (AD 928-944) is a central-domed, cross-shaped example of Armenian medieval classical architecture that reached to its perfection in the main building of the complex – St Amenaprkich Church. It was built between AD 957 and 966 under the patronage of Queen Khosrovanush (wife of King Ashot III the Merciful). The focus of the interior is on the central nucleus and the harmony between its square base and round dome. The main apse is surrounded by four two-storey sacristies. The church is approached through a narthex, built in AD 1181 in a cross-in-square plan with the roof supported by four columns (the earliest known example of this plan). The ornamentation of the capitals of the columns with symbolic sculptures in the shape of animal heads adds distinctive expression to this narthex.
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