Daphni Monastery or Dafni Monastery

Daphni Monastery



Location: 10 km (6 mi) Northwest of Athens, Attica  Map

Found: 6th century

Tel. +30 210 581 1558


Daphni Monastery History

Daphni Monastery or Dafni Monastery is situated 10 km (6 mi) Northwest of Athens in the Attica region in Greece. Daphni Monastery is situated on the Sacred Way that connected Athens and sacred site of Eleusis. The site is open to the public and tourists are allowed to venture into religious complex, however several of the structures are closed to the public due to reconstruction. There is no significant security and if you feel like sneaking inside it is possible to take a peak inside.


Daphni Monastery was found in the 6th century. It was constructed on a site of Ancient pagan sanctuary of Appollo Daphnaios. Daphni Monastery was destroyed during Goth invasion in 395 AD. One of the columns that remained from the old temple was reused in the construction of the church. Others were removed by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, who transported to London. The main church of the Daphni Monastery compound (catholicon) was constructed in the 11th century AD and its mosaics were added in the early Comnenan period in the early 12th century.


Roman Catholic Church launched a Fourth Crusade in 1204 that resulted in captured Konstantinopol (capital of Byzantine Empire). Just a year later Crusaders took the monastery. Otho de la Roche, Duke of Athens, transferred the Greek Orthodox Monastery into Roman Catholic Cistercian Abbey of Bellevaux. Upon his death he was buried here. Ironically new invaders, this time Ottoman Turks, kicked out the monks and transferred it back to the Orthodox Christians in 1458. The abbey didn't return back to its former glory and many parts of the complex were abandoned. Parts of the living quarters have been used by the Turkish military as their barracks. During the War of Independence the Turks punished local rebels by disbanding the monastery in 1821. After Greece earned its dependence the site lay abandoned until 1888. Currently Daphni Monastery site is under reconstruction.


History and architecture
The Daphni monastery was founded in the 6th century on the ruins of the temple of Daphne Apollo which was destroyed by the Goths in 395. Some columns of Ionic style of the ancient temple were used again. Only one has been rescued today, while the rest have been flown to London by Lord Elgin.

The katholikon of the monastery dates back to the late 11th century and belongs to the architectural type of the octagonal cruciform church. In this type, the central space of the main church is enlarged by replacing the four columns that support the dome by eight columns placed closer to the walls. The arrangement of the columns that forms a peristope around the central space and maintains the cross-arranged arches on the roof with the insertion of half-columns between them, characterizes in particular the so-called complex octagonal (or "continental") type of mid-Byzantine church building.

In the katholikon of the monastery are preserved mosaics, the best preserved of the first period (Komnenian Dynasty, about 1100) which is represented by the strict and hierarchical depiction of Pantocrator Christ inside the dome, the main feature of the Macedonian era.

After the looting of the monastery by the Crusaders in 1205, Otto de la Roche, Duke of Athens, ceded it to the Cistercian monks. The French monks rebuilt the exonarthex, added an enclosure around the monastery and other changes until their expulsion from the Turks, when the monastery was handed over in 1458 again to the Orthodox monks. Over the centuries the monastery was deserted. Restoration work began only in 1888.

The origin of the name
The name of the Daphni monastery is associated with the ancient Sanctuary of Daphni Apollo, on which it is considered to have been built. But there are other versions. One of them mentions that it took its name from the number of laurels that existed in the area and maybe that was the reason for the founding of the ancient sanctuary.

Another version associates it with the Virgin of Daphni in Istanbul. A tradition, narrated by the elderly nun Martha around 1870 to Georgios Lampakis, states that the name and the founding of Daphni are related to the princess Daphne. Legend of the time states that Daphne sank in the Scaramanga Sea, but was rescued along with twelve barrels full of coins. To thank the Virgin Mary, he built the monastery in her honor and buried all the remaining coins in seven jars in the courtyard of the monastery.

There are still many versions of traditions, rather fiction, which have emerged from the popular belief that the monastery was the institution of a Byzantine emperor. One of them connects the Daphni monastery with the legend of the queen Margarona (Maquelone) and the noble Imperio, which dates back to the 12th century.

The foundation of the Daphni monastery
The date of the foundation of Daphni Monastery has not been clarified with absolute certainty. Most scholars date the foundation of the monastery to the 6th century, ie to the early Christian years. During the 5th and 6th centuries in Athens many churches were built and many pagan temples were converted to Christianity, due to the spread of Christianity, after its proclamation as the official religion of the Byzantine state by Emperor Theodosius I. In order to purify the ancient temples and sanctuaries, it was necessary to convert them into Christian churches.

Christian temples belonged to the architectural type of the basilica. They were elongated rectangular buildings oriented east - west, with the niche of the sanctuary attached, on the narrow east side. The interior of the temples was formed in three aisles (corridors), which were separated by two colonnades parallel to the longitudinal axis of the temple (three-aisled basilicas). This type is believed to have been the church that was built in Daphni in the 6th century, on the site of the sanctuary of Daphne Apollo, which was destroyed during the invasion of the Goths of Alaric in 395 AD.

There is a version, which was recently supported by Professor Charalambos Bouras, who states that chronologically the foundation of the monastery was made in the 11th century. This emerges from an examination of the findings, which all date back to the 11th century. The absence of monasteries in the area south of Olympus before the end of the Iconoclasm, ie the beginning of the 9th century, reinforces this version.


The dating to the 6th century was attributed based on the sculptures that existed in the area, but which after their study by archaeologists date back to the Middle Byzantine period (843-1204). In this early period some monastic cells were attributed, as well as the fortified enclosure.

The 6th century basilica was apparently demolished and replaced by the 11th century cruciform octagonal church. The limited excavations that have been made to locate the 6th century basilica, have not had any result, until today.

Founder of the Daphni monastery
The foundation of the Monastery of Daphni, probably around 1080, was sponsored by an unknown donor, as there is no special inscription. The influence of Constantinople on both the architecture and the mosaic decoration of the monastery's katholikon has led researchers to conclude that the donor was a high-ranking official or an emperor, who may have invited craftsmen from the city.

Many scholars have linked Daphni with Basil II the Bulgarian (976-1025), due to his admiration for the ancient city of Athens. However, the study of the architecture and decoration of the katholikon has led archaeologists to conclude that the church was built in the years around 1080. So we can simply attribute the sponsorship to one of its successors.

Its architecture
The monastery of Daphni consists of the katholikon, the precinct, the cells of the monks, the bank, the kitchen, the bath, the cistern and a rectangular room.

The catholic
The katholikon of Daphni dominates in the middle of the almost square large courtyard. Its size is impressive, its architectural type is complex and its masonry is of exceptional quality. The church belongs to the complex octagonal architectural type - it is in fact one of the most important examples of this type in Greece. Externally one could liken it to a large cube, which supports a wide and high dome. Internally, the dome rests on eight four-sided supports (pillars), four free and four built into the walls. The designation octagonal occurs due to the octagonal support of the dome. The pillars arranged in pairs form four corner niches (semicircles), which bridge the corners of the square of the base and turn it into an octagon. The dome rests on it through eight small spherical triangles formed between the arcs connecting the eight pillars. The octagonal temples are divided into simple and complex. In the first, the eight supports of the dome are integrated in the walls (pilasters), leaving the interior of the temple completely free. In the complex octagonal temples the supports of the dome are located at some distance from the external walls. Thus, smaller apartments are created around the central space. The complex octagonal temples are cruciform inscribed with an enlarged space under the dome. Unlike the simple octagons, the cross is clearly marked both inside and outside the temple. The octagonal types spread in Greece through Constantinople. The space under the dome is open and open and in fact in Daphni, it is flooded by light that diffuses from the sixteen single-pane windows of the dome.

Externally, the building rises pyramidically to the top of the dome. It is built according to the brick-enclosed system. There are no hollow decorative elements, while the simple vertical plinth is often omitted. Pseudo-Kouf decoration has been found on the drums of the south and west walls. In general, the ceramic decoration is quite simple and consists mainly of serrated strips around the arches of the windows. The sculptural decoration inside and outside the church was limited but extremely well made. The lower part of the walls was internally covered with marble slabs (orthomarbling). Externally, under the window aprons, large structures form crosses.

On the west side of the church there was a narthex, where an exonarthex was attached in the form of an open portico with a floor during the 12th century. The abbot's apartments and the library must have been there. Traces of 12th and 13th century frescoes have been found in the exonarthex, while post-Byzantine frescoes (17th century) have been found in the church.

The precinct

The monastery was protected by a strong square enclosure with a side of about 97 meters. The precinct had a fortification character and morphology, which is visible on the north side, where the wall is preserved in very good condition. It was 8 meters high with a perimeter 1.6 meters wide, ie an internal corridor that allowed movement along the wall, at a height of 6 meters. The perimeter was supported by a blind arc. The wall was covered along its entire length by ramparts, while its course was interrupted at regular intervals by towers of square plan. Three of them have survived to this day and are located on the north side of the enclosure. In the construction of the wall, cobblestones were used, cut into large rectangular pieces 1.6 m long and 0.4-0.6 m high and connected with mortar, while layers of bricks are often observed.

The main gate of the Daphni monastery was located in the middle of the west side of the precinct, opposite the entrance of the katholikon. It was protected by a fortification tower, which rose above it and was reinforced by two side bastions. Thus, in order to enter the courtyard of the monastery, one had to go through the passageway, vaulted corridor 6 m long, which opened under the tower. There was also a smaller gate in the middle of the east side of the enclosure. This is the entrance that is used today for the monastery. The reason for the existence of the enclosure for the remote monasteries was of course their fortification by invaders, while for the monasteries within cities it was the protection of the monks from the temptations of secular life. The fortification of Daphni Monastery, which was built at a distance of 10 km from Athens, in a verdant semi-mountainous area, but extremely busy with travelers, merchants and peddlers, soldiers but also robbers and kidnappers, seems to have served both purposes.

The monks' cells
The cells where the monks rested were usually built attached to the inner side of the enclosure, in order to save space but also to strengthen its defensive character. It usually consisted of two floors, but several times they even had four. The low cell doors usually opened on covered arcades, solar panels or pistons. Inside, the monastic cells had beds and small niches for the monks' clothes, books, and personal belongings.

In the northern wall of the monastery of Daphni, traces have been found that betray the existence of cells: slots for the beams that supported the wooden floor of the upper floor and niches for the personal belongings of the monks. On the west side of the enclosure the cells were not attached to the enclosure, but were located at a short distance from it, resulting in a narrow corridor. To the south of the katholikon there is a group of cells with arcades, which are built around a small square courtyard. These were built by the Cistercian monks and redesigned by the Orthodox in the 16th century.

The bank and the kitchen
The benches are spacious rectangular rooms with arched ends on one of the two narrow sides. There the monks sat at long narrow tables or benches placed in parallel rows along the walls, while the abbot ate at a separate table in the niche.

In Daphni this area is located in an elongated arched building 28.7 m long north of the katholikon. Its orientation was the same as that of the catholic. The walls, which survived to a height of about 1.7 m., Were built in a manner and materials similar to those used in the construction of the katholikon, a fact that places the reconstruction of the bank in the 11th century.

The monks entered the area through three double doors on its west side. The east side was occupied by an arch, semicircular inside and semi-hexagonal outside. The room was covered by an arched roof, supported by supporting arches along the long sides. As long as there was light, the room was lit by natural light coming in through rows of windows that had opened on the long sides of the room, while at night they lit lamps.

The circular building that has been found attached to the north side of the bank was probably the kitchen of the monastery. The monastic kitchens had a central hearth with a grill for cooking and were housed by low domes with a central chimney. On the walls were opened niches of various sizes and shapes for the placement of various utensils.

The bathroom

The existence of a bath complex in a monastery was not a common phenomenon for it when it existed it signified prosperity and prosperity. Although the number of monastic baths that have survived is quite limited, their architectural configuration, as well as the technology of heating and circulation of water were similar to those of the folk baths, which continued the Roman traditions. Thus, the baths in the monasteries consisted of four rooms. The first was the vestibule, where bathers left their clothes. This was followed by the two sweating chambers, the lukewarm or lukewarm and the warm. The bath was completed in the fourth room, where there were pool-pools for swimming in hot or cold water. The water in the thermon and the hot tank was heated by hot air, which was produced by a fire burning under the floor, in the hypocaust, and was diffused through built-in clay pipes. From the baths of Daphni only the hypocausts have been saved, which were located in the southwest of the katholikon. The anomaly is completely demolished. The entrance to the area was from the west.

The cistern
A rectangular underground tank with dimensions of 13.3x4.95 m has been located in the southwest of the katholikon for the collection of rainwater. It is located under the cells of the 16th century, has a southeast-northwest orientation and is located at the junction (misggeian) of two slopes. Its capacity has been estimated at 300 cubic meters, while its bottom is located at a depth of about 7 m from the current floor of the courtyard to the south of the temple. The interior was divided into two vaulted aisles that went into three columns and the walls were covered with hydraulic mortar. The water was collected through circular openings with marble cladding at the top of the arches. A rectangular cleaning well had been drilled at the lower point of the upper surface of the cistern.

The rectangular room
To the south of the katholikon are the ruins of an oblong rectangular hall measuring 23x6.5 m. With east-west orientation, typical mid-Byzantine masonry and a floor paved with clay slabs. There were columns along the north and south walls. The available data, however, do not allow the determination of its use.

The cemetery church of Agios Nikolaos
The ruined chapel of Agios Nikolaos has been located in the forest that extends to the east of the precinct of the monastery of Dafni. It was built at the same time as the katholikon and seems to have been the cemetery church of the monastery. The cemeteries of the monasteries were usually located outside the precinct for reasons of hygiene. Agios Nikolaos is a small vaulted basilica built according to the brick-enclosed masonry system. An underground crypt was found under the church. There were built around a central corridor three square ossuaries with arches (arcosolia) and covered with stone slabs. The church of Agios Nikolaos survives today and is located 20 meters from the building of the Tourist Kiosk.

The mosaic decoration of the monastery of Daphni
The monastery of Daphni is considered one of the most important Byzantine monuments, due to the brilliant mosaics that adorn the walls of its katholikon. Many of them are preserved to this day, despite damage from both earthquakes and work that caused many alterations. Archaeologists, with the help of travelers' descriptions, have been able to restore the image that the mosaic decoration of the katholikon of Daphni monastery had in the last decades of the 11th century.

The dome
The dome and the arch that dominate the vertical and the longitudinal axis of the temple building symbolize the celestial sphere, while the lower zones the earth. Thus, the dome is occupied by a representation of Christ the Pantocrator and is surrounded by angelic powers and prophets. The spherical triangles depict the four evangelists who recorded the divine incarnation and acted as liaisons between the earthly and celestial spheres. The realization of the incarnation, ie various incidents and events from the earthly life of Christ (Christological scenes), is placed in the immediately lower zone of the temple, ie the arches, the drums of the cross antennas and the upper parts of the walls. In the lower zone of the walls are depicted the saints, who enjoy together with the faithful who have come to the temple the view of the uncle.


The Pantocrator, "Righteous Judge", in the medal of the dome of the catholic of the monastery of Daphni. The sternness and intensity of the look is largely due to the strong arched eyebrows and the dark shadows around the eyes. The relatively schematic and flat rendering of the plastic values ​​of the face, removes the form of the Pantocrator from the classicist style in which all other forms have been executed. The dark, dense beard intensifies the impression of austerity. The great distance that separates the index finger from the middle finger on the gospel adds intensity to the gesture, which is in perfect agreement with the whole dynamism of the form.

Panagia-Platytera is placed in the arch of the sanctuary. The Virgin Mary, the bearer of the divine incarnation, is bound for the salvation of men and mediates as a link between the heavenly and the earthly sphere, between God and men. In the semi-cylindrical part of the arch we have topics related to the Divine Liturgy, usually including the Society of the Apostles (transmission-communion) as well as various Fathers of the Church. In the katholikon of the monastery of Daphni, which is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, the above standard is followed enriched with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary (Mariological scenes).

The figures of sixteen standing prophets were placed on the drum of the dome. Their calm postures are reminiscent of ancient philosophers and orators. The classicist perception is particularly evident in the embossing of some figures as well as in the contemplative expression of their eyes. But some of the prophets depicted have stern, intensely shaded eyes and faces reminiscent of the Almighty. Today's placement of some forms is not the original.

The Nativity in the southeastern half of the catholic of the monastery of Daphni is characterized by intense classicism, which is evident in the rendering of the landscape, in the serene and intensely plastic faces of the depicted figures, in the calm folding of the clothes and their harmonious movements. In the four hemispheres that open under the drum of the dome, the Byzantine voters had depicted the most important evangelical scenes before the Passion, namely the Annunciation (northeast hemisphere), the Nativity (southeast hemisphere), the Baptism (south) and the Baptism (south) Metamorphosis (northwest hemisphere). All four performances survive more or less in fragments. The first of these takes place in a single golden plain (depth) without the slightest declaration of landscape. The archangel Gabriel approaches the Virgin Mary with a calm, harmonious movement, reminiscent of an ancient Greek representation of Victory. His clothes - a white robe over a dark blue tunic - are slightly folded and follow the movements of the body. The Virgin Mary on the right is depicted frontally, standing in front of a throne with her head slightly turned to the right. The expression of both forms is polite and serene. The archangel's wings and clothes of both figures are adorned in places with gold tiles. The Nativity scene takes place in an almost idyllic landscape. The rocky cave that hosts the Virgin Mary and the newborn Christ, with golden highlights at the top of the star, is surrounded by low hills with limited vegetation, while the lower right group of sheep drinks water from a stream. The classicism that characterizes the rendering of the landscape is in perfect harmony with the serene figures of the Virgin and Joseph, as well as the four angels and the two shepherds that fill the upper zone of the show. Here, too, the folds are calm and follow the movement of the bodies, the movements are harmonious and the shaping of the faces is characterized by intense plasticity.


The figure of the Virgin Mary from the intensely classicist representation of the Crucifixion, with her deep melancholy expression and her gentle gesture. The harmonious physique and posture of both the Virgin Mary and John (opposite) are reduced to models of classical antiquity. At the center of the highly symmetrical Baptism scene is the naked figure of Jesus, immersed to the breast in the waters of the Jordan. The naked body, which can be clearly seen in the light blue water of the river, has been created with restraint through the use of tiny white and pink tiles. The same goes for the face of Christ and the other forms of composition. The correct proportions of the naked body as well as its slight movement in a turn towards Prodromos on the left, are reminiscent of a classic statue. This is one of the few Baptismal representations where Christ is depicted completely naked. On the right are placed two angels with their hands covered with ribbons (facades), in order to wipe the body of Christ after the completion of the baptism. The hand and foot shown on the lower right belong to a male elder figure, the personification of the Jordan River. Finally, in the scene of the Transfiguration we have Christ in elliptical blue and white glory, framed by a wide strip of silver tiles, dominating in a relaxed frontal posture of an ancient orator on Mount Tabor. With his right hand he blesses, while on his left he holds a wrapped scroll. Like the prophets in the dome drum, the figure draws its patterns from the sculpture of classical times. Tabor is rendered as a series of low hills at the bottom of the composition, where the apostles Peter, John and James are found, kneeling and dazzled by the divine radiance. To the left and right of Jesus are the related prophets Elijah and Moses respectively. And here, despite the intensely metaphysical nature of the scene, the movements of the figures are characterized by grace, the ptology is harmonized with the restrained movement of the bodies and the bodily volumes and plastic values ​​of the faces are rendered in a relief way.

In the small niches under the hemispheres, the prophet Aaron (northeastern hemisphere, Evangelismos), Saint Gregory the Akragantinos (southeastern hemisphere, Nativity), Saint Gregory the miraculous (southwestern hemisphere) half moon, Metamorphosis). The arch of the sanctuary is occupied by the Virgin Mary who has been depicted enthroned and holding a baby. The figure is badly damaged, as only its bottom is preserved. The Broader of Heaven is framed by the imposing archangels Michael and Gabriel, who stand face to face in the two side niches. They wear heavy, gold-plated clothes, step on luxurious feet and their faces are serene and serious.

The apocalyptic scene of the Preparation of the throne, which symbolizes the Second Coming, was placed on the dome of the Holy Step. Unfortunately, this show is almost completely ruined. On the fronts of the walls that separate the sanctuary from the transgressions, the Infant Virgin Mary (north wall) and Christ (south wall) were depicted in full body. These two representations, which were surrounded by shrines, are little preserved today.

The deaconry, to the south of the Holy Step, is decorated with the figures of Saints Eleftherios, Averkos, Lavrentios and Euplos, which are arranged in pairs in the arches that frame the cross dome of the roof. The latter is decorated with a Christogram. In the niche of the deacon dominates the figure of Saint Nicholas. The whole composition "treads" in golden depth. There is a similar configuration on the roof of the prosthesis, where we meet the saints Silvestro, Anthimos, Stefanos and Roufinos, while the niche is occupied by Saint John the Forerunner. Saint Nicholas and John the Forerunner are the most important after the Virgin Mary mediating-connecting with the divine forms of the Christian Church. The stern faces of Prodromos and Agios Nikolaos, with their piercing gaze, arched eyebrows and dark shadows around the eyes, strongly resemble the Pantocrator, as well as some of the prophetic figures in the dome. These are the only examples in the entire mosaic iconographic program of the catholic, which do not follow classicist standards.

The studied confrontation of Christological and Mariological scenes also characterizes the decoration of the inner narthex. Thus, in the north we have scenes from the passion of Christ: Holy Washbasin (badly damaged), Last Supper (very badly damaged) and Betrayal of Judas. The southern part of the inner narthex hosts scenes starring the Virgin Mary: the Prayer of St. Anna with the Annunciation of Joachim, the Blessing of the Priests and the Entrances of the Virgin.


The classicist austerity and the calm, restrained sadness of the Crucifixion move the viewer even today. The Virgin Mary and John stand on either side of the Crucified One, whose harmonious physique reflects classic patterns. Their mental passion is expressed by their deep melancholy expression and gentle gestures, which go back to tomb sculptures of classical antiquity: the Virgin, on the left, points to Christ with her right hand, while bringing the left under her chin, holding a small scarf. John, on the right, tilts his head towards Christ, although he turns his gaze in the opposite direction, raising his right hand upwards. The clothes show a calm ptychology. The forms are structured with very correct proportions, while their embossed plasticity results from the soft color tones and the avoidance of intense light shadows. At the Resurrection, the triumphant Christ, all-bright, in a white-gold robe and tunic, moves vigorously to the left holding the cross. Through a shrine to the left, Adam and Eve emerge, while behind them are the righteous David and Solomon in luxurious garments and golden crowns adorned with pearls and precious stones. On the right we have Ioannis Prodromos and a group of righteous people. Hades crashes at the feet of the winner, defeated.

Mosaic style
Mosaic representations are the result of long and painstaking work. The tiles were made, to be precise, cut from a variety of materials, often expensive and rare marble and various other stones with bright colors, tile and colored glass mass. The fact that the Byzantine mosaics were far from the floors and thus did not risk being worn by the feet of the faithful, allowed the extensive use of glass tiles but also gold and silver, which gave remarkable color richness and gloss to the decoration. The gold and silver tiles were made as follows: on a layer of specially processed glass they spread glue and then a very thin sheet of gold or silver. This in turn was covered with a thin protective layer of glass (glazing). After the construction and the careful selection of the mosaics, followed the preparation of the wall that would host the mosaic.

Initially, waterproofing was done with the use of tar or resin, so that the luxurious performance was protected from the moisture that the wall would draw. In order to firmly connect the substrate of the mosaics to the wall, especially in cases of domes, nails with wide heads were nailed at intervals, which protruded from the wall and were inserted into the first layer of plaster of the substrate. In total, they passed the surface of the wall with three layers of plaster. The first was quite thick, as it contained lime, sand, Theraic earth and crushed tile. This mixture, known as hydraulic mortar or kurasani, was extremely hard and highly resistant to moisture. A layer of thinner and cleaner mortar followed, where the draft of the mosaic was made. Sometimes the draft in very general terms was made directly on the bare, asbestos wall, in order for the decoration to be effectively organized in relation to the desired iconographic program and the architectural layout of the spaces.

After the second layer of coating, an even thinner mortar was spread, on which the patient craftsmen inserted the tiles. This part of the job was particularly demanding, as the innumerable tiles had to be placed on the plastered wall with an uneven slope, so that they have different behavior in the light, multiplying the brightness of the colorful surface. The finest plaster was spread in sections, on surfaces so limited as to allow voters to work while the coating was fresh enough and the tiles stuck well. Thus, each working day began with the application of the thinnest plaster on the surface that they expected to be completed by the end of the day. In places where exceptional attention and detail were required, such as the heads of the figures, the method of indirect voting was used: the designs were worked on linen cloth screens that were placed in the appropriate position on the wall.

In contrast to the ancient Greek and Roman mosaics, which were extensively smoothed after the placement of the last mosaic, the surface of the Byzantine mosaics remained completely raw. Thus, the reflectivity of the tiles placed in different slopes was increased even more, giving extra brightness to the final result.

The History of the Daphni Monastery over the years

At the end of 1204 Athens was occupied and looted, as well as its surroundings, by the Franks. The Monastery of Daphni could not be an exception, as it was also the subject of looting, evidence of which are two stone arrowheads which were found nailed in the center of the dome, at eye level and on the cheek of the figure of the Pantocrator who adorned it. Attica was ceded as a fief to the Burgundian nobleman Otto de la Ross, who ceded the Daphne Monastery in 1207 to the Cistercian monks of the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Bellevaux. The French monks rebuilt the exonarthex, erected a defensive wall around the monastery, and proceeded with a series of other changes. They remained in Daphne for two and a half centuries, until it was occupied by the Turks of Mohammed II, when they were expelled and the monastery was again ceded to the Orthodox.

Various documents and inscriptions show that during the Frankish rule Daphni was known as the monastery of Delfino, Dauferins, Dalphino, Dalphineto or Dalphinet and served as the burial place of the dukes of Athens. The mausoleum of the dukes is believed to have been located in a crypt located under the floor of the narthex of the catholic. Two marble shrines found in the narthex during the second half of the 19th century were considered to be related to de la Roche, based on the coat of arms of the Burgundian family that was recognized. Archaeological data, however, are not sufficient to support such a thing.

The Cistercians made minimal changes and additions to the premises. They kept the katholikon as it was and around the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century they repaired the exonarthex, which had been damaged by earthquakes. They turned the floor of the exonarthex into a military defense, backed by ramparts, and built a group of cells to the south of the katholikon, which were later rebuilt by the Orthodox.

Ottoman rule
The Turks occupied Athens in June 1458 and the monastery of Daphni was given to Orthodox monks, who repaired various parts of it, mainly the cells. But pirate and predatory raids during the 16th and 17th centuries were so frequent that many monks left Daphne and probably took refuge in nearby monasteries. Nevertheless, it seems that the monastery was significantly deserted in the early 19th century, as sources about it are scarce.

The visit of Lord Elgin
In the first years of the 19th century the monastery was visited by Lord Elgin. The English traveler and archaeologist Edward Dodwell (1767-1832), who passed through Daphni in the autumn of 1805, reports that there were some small Ionic columns with their capitals. The columns were partially walled. Lord Elgin had removed the columns, which are now in the British Museum.

The detachment of the Ionian columns is reported by both the Frenchman Francois Pouqueville and the German Ludwig Ross who visited the site later, during the 1810s and 1830s respectively. These are three thin Ionic columns that supported the arched openings of the facade of the exonarthex of the monastery katholikon. Only one of the columns of the exonarthex remains to this day in its original position, in the southwest corner of the building. The original location of these columns seems to have been in the sanctuary of Daphne Apollo, the ancient ancestor of the Christian monastery of Daphne.

Revolution of 1821
The monastery of Daphni was conquered by the Turks during the Revolution of 1821, despite its very strong fortification. Tradition states that the invasion took place through a shallow well that was located outside the enclosure and was connected underground with three other wells inside the monastery. This secret passage was revealed by the monk Paisios to the Turks, who burned the Monastery and the traitor Paisios and the remains of his corpse were thrown in a corner of the courtyard until 1854. The exact date of the fall has not been ascertained. It is considered more probable that it took place during the campaign of Omer Vryonis in Attica in the summer of 1821 and not in the invasion of Kioutachis in Athens in 1826, the important battles that took place in Haidari in August 1826 and the smallest battle in Daphne on March 21. 1827. The conquerors of the monastery of Daphni abandoned it having caused significant damage.

Later, the ruined monastery probably functioned as a base for some chiefs, such as Ioannis Gouras (1791-1827), whose letter seems to have been sent by Daphni.


After the revolution
After the revolution the monastery was completely deserted. The last abbot was Agathangelos, from 1815 to 1830. During the period 1838-1839, Bavarian soldiers settled in the area of ​​Daphni, to control the passage to Athens, who turned the monks' cells to the south of the katholikon into stables. Since 1840 the monastery seems deserted.

During the Anglo-French occupation of Piraeus, a French battalion settled in the monastery, to protect itself from the terrible cholera epidemic that had broken out in the city. From them were done some cleaning works of the area as well as archeological excavations in the area around and in Iera Odos. When the French soldiers left Daphne, a small group of nuns settled there.

During the period 1883-1885 the monastery of Daphni was transformed into a psychiatric hospital. The monks' cells were repaired and various auxiliary buildings were rebuilt in the courtyard, which significantly burdened the monument. The degradation of the monastery reached its peak in the year 1887, when it was used as a sheepfold, which caused a general outcry. This, combined with the damage from strong earthquakes in 1886, 1889 and 1894, prompted those responsible for taking action to save, preserve and raise Daphni.

The promotion of the Monastery
A crucial development for the preservation of the monument was the founding of the Christian Archaeological Society in 1885 in Athens. A committee consisting of Georgios Lampakis, architect Panagiotis Zezos and Giorgos Vroutos assessed the situation, but their proposals were not implemented. In November 1888, the General Ephorate of Antiquities proceeded with a series of minor repairs, which according to Lampakis were completely harmful. The most drastic of the interventions was the removal of the Byzantine tiles that covered the dome and the roof of the church and their replacement with common, poor quality tiles. Repeated earthquakes caused other damage to the monument, mainly cracks in many parts of the dome, while much of the mosaic of the Pantocrator that adorned it fell.

Following a proposal from the Ministry of Education in 1890, a committee of experts was set up, which proposed the demolition and reconstruction of the dome drum and the fixing of the spherical triangles, halves, domes and pillars that supported it. They also recommended the correction of the dome mosaics without, however, filling in the missing parts. The representations of the Pantocrator and the sixteen prophets were partially removed from the drum of the dome. The dome and some additions (bell tower and group of cells), which had been added during the Turkish occupation, were demolished. The original bricks, which had been removed, were used in the reconstruction of the dome. At the base of the dome drum was placed an iron crown of double cross section, which is still visible today, so that the weight of the dome is transferred evenly throughout the building.

The relocation of the mosaics to the dome and other operations performed were considered arbitrary by the experts. In 1893, iron ties were placed on the narthex and other parts of the main church that were dilapidated. Two more massive unsightly struts were attached to the outside of the north antenna of the temple, but offered support to the monument.

In September 1894 it was decided that the dilapidated western wall of the narthex should be demolished and restored and the subsequent additions removed, at the expense of the Archaeological Society. During the years 1936-1939 the archaeologist Ioannis Travlos carried out a systematic excavation at the monastery, to study the remains of the Sanctuary of Daphne Apollo.

During the second half of the 1950s, maintenance work was carried out on the church by the Restoration Directorate of the Ministry of Culture, while in 1968 the west gate of the monastery was cleaned.

In 1990 the monastery of Daphni was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Thus, the protection of the monument was ensured not only nationally but also globally. The Directorate of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments, the Directorate of Preservation of Antiquities, the Directorate of Restoration of Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Monuments and the 1st Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities, where the monastery of Daphni belongs, have prepared a long-term and comprehensive plan. At the same time, its utilization for didactic purposes was promoted through the organization of educational programs for students.


The strong earthquake of 1999 created large cracks in the walls of the Monastery. The archeological site was closed to the public, as systematic work is being carried out. The support of the katholikon of the monastery of Daphni was the primary concern. At present the church is supported by metal supports of modern design and technology almost in its entire height internally and externally. At the same time, studies are being carried out that will allow the final removal of the metal pillars and the architectural restoration and promotion of the monument. Inside the church, the mosaic decoration is being maintained, while a study has been planned through excavations in various parts of the monastery, the creation of a museum, the restoration and promotion of buildings around the katholikon and the landscaping and protection of the surrounding area.