The Byzantine Daphni Monastery, 11 km from Athens center, is a UNESCO world heritage site, that was first built in the 6th century. The Daphni Monastery features unique and impressive mosaics on a gold background, with outstanding artistic characteristics.

The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, the Catholicon
The Catholicon of Daphni Monastery in Athens

The Monastery also exhibits the architectural perfection of the middle period of Byzantine religious architecture (11th and 12th centuries).

The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens is located at the beginning of the forested hill of Aigaleo Mt bordering the Sacred Road (Iera Odos), one of the busiest and old roads in Greece. Iera odos begins from Kerameikos archaeological site in central Athens.

Daphni monastery details of mosaic
Mosaic of Jesus
The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, Pantikrator fresco
Ceiling Fresco of Jesus Pantokrator

This strategic location of the Daphni Monastery at Iera Odos served as an intermediate station for all kinds of armies during the centuries. Over the last 300 years, many philhellenic travelers would always stop on their way to the sacred City of Eleusis and the Peloponnese.

*Some of the links below are affiliate links. That means I may make a commission if you click and buy. The commission comes at no additional cost to you.

Athens Quick Reference

  • Where to stay in Athens with stunning Acropolis view: Niche Hotel or The Foundry Suites
  • Book your ferry tickets with no-hidden-fees at FerryScanner or FerryHopper
  • Rent a car with Discover Cars for reliable new cars at affordable prices
  • The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens

    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, aerila view
    Aerial view of the Daphni Monastery Dome

    Brief History of the Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens

    • It was originally built sometime during the first paleochristianic centuries, probably in the 6th century AD
    • In 1080 AD, an unknown person cleared the ruins of the old Basilica Church and renovated the Monastery. The mosaics of the monastery belong to the Komnenoi Dynasty
    • In 1205 the Crusades destroyed the Monastery significantly. Later on, it was donated to French monks who rebuilt the exonarthex and added an enclosure around the monastery. They remained until 1456 when Athens was conquered by the Ottomans who expelled the French
    • In 1458, the monastic complex was again given to the Orthodox monks who built in the small enclosure two-story buildings with cells and a dining room, storerooms, and a perimeter gallery
    • In 1821, during the Greek War of Independence was occasionally used as a garrison until it became an archaeological site at the end of the 19th century

    The Monastery’s Architecture

    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, the Catholicon, and the monks cells
    Daphni Monastery Catholicon, and the monks’ cells

    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens was probably built on the site of the ancient temple of Apollo Daphnaeus (Daphni in Greek means laurel), an ancient Greek god. The ancient temple was completely destroyed by the Goths who invaded Athens in 398 AD. There is a single Ionic column from the Apollo Temple, still standing and supporting the exonarthex of the monastery.

    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, ancient column
    The remaining Ancient Ionic Column

    Edward Clarke and Elgin removed 3 other remaining columns in 1801 and transported them to England where they still remain (along with so many other Greek antiquities).

    Eastern side of Catholikon of Daphni

    What is quite unique about Daphni Monastery is the imposing fortified enclosure wall, almost 20 feet high reinforced with towers, battlements, and two entry gates. The smaller one is used today as the main entrance to the monument.

    The interior of the Monastery is dominated by the Catholicon, the main large Temple.

    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, entrance to the Catholicon
    Entrance to the Daphni Catholicon

    The Catholicon of Daphni Monastery has been described as one of the most beautiful domed churches in Greece. The Catholicon, dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin Mary, is dated to the 11th century. It features a large dome supported on eight pillars arranged symmetrically and in the corners of the building, there are placed Chapels.

    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, walls in the monastery
    The Daphni Monastery Walls
    Evgenia at the back entrance of Catholicon
    Me at the back entrance of Catholicon

    The calm surfaces of its walls attest that it was built by great craftsmen of the Greek Byzantine school and the wealth of decorative brickwork surrounding the windows attracts the attention of the visitor.

    Eastern view of the Catholicon of Dephni Monastery in Athens
    Eastern view of the Catholicon

    The exquisite Byzantine architecture is in full harmony with the highly-artistic frescoes on the walls of the Catholicon.

    Daphni Monastery’s Frescoes and Mosaics

    The main mosaic in the center of the Dome is Christ Pantokrator (Ruler Over All), one of the most beautiful scenes depicted in the Greek Orthodox religion, flanked by 16 prophets of the Old Testament.

    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, Pantokrator mosaic
    Pantokrator Mosaic – Photo Antonios Pospelov

    In the mosaics in the Daphni Monastery in Athens, we see innovations and new iconographic styles.

    Mosaics and frescoes of the Monastery
    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, details of mosaic
    Details of the mosaic – Photo Antonios Pospelov
    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, frescoes

    In the Catholicon, we see a reduction in the depiction of individual saints which are often found in other Greek Orthodox Monasteries and churches, while monks and holy women are absent. In the Daphni Monastery, there is an emphasis on the human part of depicted saints which is enriched with scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary.

    The Monastery’s Yard

    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery, western monk yards
    Western Monk Cells

    The Monastery’s main yard also houses the western and easter monks’ cells, that today are used as offices and a small museum with exhibits from the site.

    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery, eastern cell monks
    Eastern Monk Cells and Museum
    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery , exhibition museum Daphni
    A temporary exhibition at Monastery’s Museum

    All around the yard, there are also the remains of many wells and various buildings in different states of conservation.

    Exhibits of ancient findings in the Daphine monastery
    The Byzantine Daphni Monastery in Athens, Crypt Dukes
    Crypt of the Dukes

    Another intervention of the monks was the conversion of the underground area under the narthex into a Crypt for the burial of the Dukes of the Duchy of Athens.

    How to Get to the Monastery of Daphni

    You can visit the Daphni Monastery on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 08:00 – 15:00 with free entrance.

    A kitty monk!

    You can get there by public transport from Athens center using the Metro (M3 line) and get off at Agia Marina Station (see resources on the Metro Map below). From there, if you walk 40 meters to the bus station you can take any of the following buses: 866 or 876, or 811. 11 stops later (at Daphni Hospital) you get off and the Monastery is on the other side of the road.

    Sign at the entrance of Daphni

    Alternative ways are taxis or guides tours like Ancient Corinth and Daphni Monastery tour from Get your Guide or Byzantine monasteries tour around Athens by Viator

    UNESCO Monuments in Greece

    Spend a week on Rhodes island,Knights' Street,
    Medieval Town of Rhodes

    There are currently 18 UNESCO Monuments in Greece:

    Athens, Attika (1): Acropolis Hill

    Monasteries (3): Daphni in Athens, Nea Moni in Chios, Hosios Loukas in Fokida

    Northern Greece (4): Vergina, Philippi, Paleochristian, and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika, Mount Athos

    Peloponnese (5): Mystras, Olympia, Apollo Epicurius at Bassae, Mycenae and Tiryns, Sanctuary of Asklepios in Epidauros

    Islands (5): Delos, Medieval City of Rhodes, Old Town of Corfu, Pythagoreion and Heraion of Samos, the Historic Centre (Chorá), the Monastery of Saint-John the Theologian, and the Cave of the Apocalypse on Patmos

    Central Greece (2): Delphi, Meteora Monasteries

    If you need local help with organizing your visit, please leave a comment below or join my informative and entertaining group on Facebook. Thanks!
    Travel the Greek Way

    Some of my Favorite Travel Resources for Greece

    More Readings on Greece:


    Amorgos island chora 2


    Port in Spetses with ships and buildings


    Follow Evgenia Mataragka:

    Hi! I am an Athens-based Greek obsessed with exploring Greece and bringing you the best travel experience ever!

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *