Monastery of Daphni

Monastery of Daphni

The Monastery of Daphni is located west of Athens, almost in the middle of the distance between the ancient Iera Odos (the road to Eleusis). The first group of buildings of the Monastery of Daphni was built in the 5th Century A.D. and was enclosed by a strong, almost square, enclosure.

The monuments that are surviving today belong to the second phase, end of the 11th Century (around 1080 A.D.). The interior of the church is adorned with admirable mosaics of that period. They are unique works of art, excellent specimens of the classical idealism of the Middle Byzantine Period that are the attracting pole of the visitors of this quaint monastery. The lower part of the walls was lined with marble orthostats that were replaced with medium quality murals, in about 1650 AD.

The Monastery is built on the location of the ancient temple, dedicated to Daphnian Apollo that was destroyed during the raid of the Goths in 395 B.C. Today, what remains of this ancient temple is an Ionian pillar built on the colonnade of the narthex (the rest of the pillars were stolen by Lord Elgin in the 19th Century).


The Monastery is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and was established in the 6th Century A.D. Regardless of its prosperity and its wealth, it was abandoned and restored a lot later, at the end of the 11th Century by an unknown benefactor. In 1204 the area of Daphni was allotted to the Venetian Governor of Athens, Otto de la Roche Athinon in 1207, Cistercian monks from Belleveaux settled in the Monastery. They brought about alterations to its structure and its form. When Athens was conquered by the Turks, in 1458, the Monastery was allotted again to the Orthodox Church and again Orthodox monks were settled there, who brought new alterations to the buildings.

For the duration of the Greek War of Independence, the Monastery was used as a hide-out. In 1838-39 Bavarians settled there and during the period 1883 to 1885 was used as a mental clinic. Later, it suffered serious catastrophes from earthquakes in 1889 and 1897.