As we have already seen in the case of the Monastery of Haghbat, which is also closest to Sanahin both geographically and chronologically, a study of the present state of the complex must be limited to the main buildings, or rather "monuments" if such they may be called, since all the minor surrounding buildings, that must necessarily have been there and were evidently numerous, have been lost.
Even through the history and specific bibliography, which is relatively extensive in this case, it does not seem possible to get a very clear idea of the way of life in the monastery. A certain perplexity must therefore remain, at least with regard to a valuation of the initial phase of a critical approach.
Of course many factors enable us, at least in part, to explain away the notable lack of subsidiary monastery buildings and the impossibility of linking the monumental structures with their minor surrounding living quarters, huddling like the ancient village around the monastery walls, probably on the site of the present inhabited area.
As is well known it is only the most important buildings that were constructed in long-lasting materials and have therefore come down to us, and this was particulary true in the East and Middle East. Moreover in the case of Armenia, a region which was continually being invaded and sacked, the only buildings that were respected were those belonging to a religious cult, protected by a natural respect for sacred places. In the specific case of the monasteries, life also went on outside the precincts, often reaching a point of laxity condemned by the religious authorities of the time.