Gavit with three naves. A portial view of the west side nave
In the drum of the east facade in a rectangular niche, is a bas-relief showing the brothers Gourg(h)en and Smbat, in princely clothes, holding up a model of the church. This was an original solution repeated later on the other buildings such as Haghbat and Haridjavank. The motif of blind arches, as is well known, is a particular characteristic of Western architecture of the early Middle Ages which, with a progressive lightening of the frame work, was later taken over by Romanesque architecture. In Armenia important blind arcades may be found in the cathedral of Talin (VII century), while contemporary to Sanahin are those of the Cathedral of Ani (989-1001). The similarities between Armenian and Romanesque-Pisan architecture, which have often been referred to, seem worthy of consideration today, at least in so far as the motif of the arches on the facade is concerned, more at a formal level than on that of real architectural consistency. The gavit in front of the church of Amenaprkitch is joined on the north side to the hall with three naves. It dates from 1181 and was built on the site of a previous gavit (end of the X century). The building was created by the archimandrite Hovhannes, with the help of Prince Kourd and of Vardapet Grigor, son of Toute. The building is planned as a cross inscribed square perimeter. The centrical layout of the interior volume is underlined by the covering which is a large calotte placed on four heavy, monolithic columns, while the remaining angular parts of the room have a Iower, flat ceiling created by great stone slabs, carved with varied motifs. Light comes in, as is usual, through the great, open eye in the central dome. The gavit of the church of Amenaprkitch is one of the oldest examples of its kind, and its origins may be sought in Armenian peasant dwellings, built as square rooms with four free-standing pillars holding up the roof, with an opening in the centre to let out smoke and to provide light.