In the famous Academy, connected according to oral tradition to the name of Grigor Maguistros of Pahlavouni, the mediaeval "liberal arts" were taught, as well as medicine, painting and, in particular, miniature painting. The monks of Sanahin were so well-known that they were frequently sent abroad as ambassadorial advisors.
Sanahin’s period of greatest splendour coincides with the flourishing kingdom of the Kiurikians and of the Zkarian princes (X - XIII centuries).
The Mongol invasion of 1235 caused a general decline of monastic life and the ensuing decadence of Sanahin.
During the invasions much of the monastery was destroyed, including the church of St. James, the X-century gavit, the monks’ living quarters, the tomb of the Kiurikian and the
Xlll-century caravanserai. Decorations and frescoes inside the buildings were also destroyed.The monastery of Sanahin is built over the foundations of an unknown IV-V century church of which only a few architectural traces remain. The individual buildings of the monastery, which date from different periods, are: the little church of the Virgin (St. Astvatzatzin) with its gavit, the
larger church next to it dedicated to the Redeemer (Amenaprkitch) with its gavit, the Academy, the round chapel of St. Gregory, the library and the bell-tower.
The name of Mkhithar is also famous, since he carved the khatchkar dedicated to the son of Toute (1184), and was probably the artist who carved the sculptures and decorations of the gavit. The planimetrical composition of the complex is designed along two rectangular lines with the facades facing westwards. From the volumetrical aspect the composition is planned along the diagonal lines of the rectangular perimeter, which encloses all the buildings.