Cultural Corridors of South East Europe

Heritage by Period / Middle Ages

The Monastery of Daphni, part of the World Heritage site "Monasteries of Daphni, Hossios Luckas and Nea Moni of Chios"

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The Monastery of Daphni, part of the World Heritage site

About the site

Corridor: Western Trans-Balkan Road
Country: Greece, Attica
Type: Christian religious centre
Epoch: Middle Ages
Theme: Christian Monasteries
World Heritage: Cultural Heritage
Middle AgesChristian MonasteriesChristian religious centreCultural Heritage

Although geographically distant from each other, these three monasteries (the first is in Attica, near Athens, the second in Phocida near Delphi, and the third on an island in the Aegean Sea, near Asia Minor) belong to the same typological series and share the same aesthetic characteristics. The churches are built on a cross-in-square plan with a large dome supported by squinches defining an octagonal space. In the 11th and 12th centuries they were decorated with superb marble works as well as mosaics on a gold background, all characteristic of the 'second golden age of Byzantine art'.


The monastery lies to the west of Athens, almost half-way along the ancient Sacred Way to Eleusis. The first monastery was erected on the site in the 6th century AD and was enclosed by strong defensive walls, almost square in plan. The catholicon was a three-aisled basilica which stood in the centre of the courtyard. Along the inner NE side of the walls, two-storeyed buildings were constructed, containing the cells of the monks. A reception hall and a second block of cells were attached on the north wall of the enclosure.
The second phase, dated to the end of the 11th century (around 1080), is the one preserved. The catholicon is a crossing-square church of the octagonal type, surmounted by a broad and high dome. It has a narthex, formed as an open portico in which the Ionic columns of the ancient temple of Apollo were built. The exonarthex was constructed a little later, in the early 12th century and the chapel to the west was added in the 18th century and during the Greek Uprising it was turned into a cistern. The porch with the three pointed arches in the west facade of the narthex was added in the 13th century by the Frankish monks and certainly points to western influence. At the same time, a second floor was built above the narthex and the exonarthex, reached by a spiral staircase in a square tower on the north wall. It was probably used as the abbot's residence or as a library. The walls of the church are built in the simple cloisonne masonry with poor brick decoration, restricted on the windows. Beneath the narthex is a crypt, not open to the public.

Expert network

Read more about The Monastery of Daphni, part of the World Heritage site "Monasteries of Daphni, Hossios Luckas and Nea Moni of Chios" at the Unesco World Heritage List.