Sanahin is packed with ancient graves, darkened chapels and medieval study halls. The inner sanctum of the cross-shaped Surp Astvatsatsin Church (Holy Mother of God Church) is the oldest structure, dating back to 934. Its adjoining gavit is one of the later buildings, built in 1181. In its heyday, the monastery was renowned for its school of illuminators and calligraphers and also for its medical school. Its name means ‘older than that one’, referring to nearby Haghpat Monastery.
Sanahin's large library (scriptorium) was built in 1063. Square in plan and vaulted, it has 10 niches of varying sizes in which codices and books were stored. At the southeastern corner of the library is a small church dedicated to St Gregory the Illuminator. The 11th-century Academy of Gregory Magistros is located between the two main churches. The cemetery, located to the southeast of the main buildings, contains a 12th-century mausoleum housing the Zakarian princes.