About half an hours drive from Omonia Sq., or 11 km, just to the South of the junction of the Sacred Way or 'Iera Odos' (trod by initiates to the Eulesian Mysteries) and Athens' modern National Highway (E94) to Corinth, lie the battlemented walls surrounding the Monastery at Daphni.
It is the most important Byzantine monument in Attica. In the 800 year long history of Byzantine religious art, it's mosaics are among the most intricate and praiseworthy of their kind, rivaled only by those of Osios Lukas in Fokis Prefecture and in Thessaloniki.
First built in the 5th century AD on the site of an ancient temple to Apollo (destroyed 395 AD) the area derives its name from the bay laurel shrub sacred to the God and called 'Daphne'.
The monastery was rebuilt in the 10th century after long neglect and is in a remarkable state of preservation.
During the occupation of Athens (1205) by the Franks, and at the order of the Duke of Athens, Otho de la Roche, the orthodox monks were driven from the abbey and supplanted, until 1458, by Catholic monks of the Cistercian order.
Both Otho and a later Duke, Walter de Brienne, are buried here in 2 ornate sarcophagi. Later, the Turks allowed the Orthodox monks to return and in general were more religiously tolerant than the Catholics. The Catholics felt threatened by the Orthodox Church and only recently have apologized for the 4th Crusade which caused the downfall of Constantinoupoli. (Pope John Paul II.1999) The Monastery was abandoned during the War of Independence in 1821 and used briefly as a barracks and then a lunatic asylum . It was restored in 1920 and again after WW II.
The Church, with its exceptionally large dome, is of the octagonal type. Ionic columns from the ancient temple support the outer narthex and other temple blocks are used in the protective walls. The interior mosaics portray Christ and the Virgin Mary as well as many prophets and Saints. All are noteworthy, but the best are on the south side of the narthex and portray the Prayer of Joachim and Anna and the Presentation of the Virgin.
From Constitution Sq. take trolley # 026 to Komondourou Sq. and then bus 2 or 6 to Daphni.
If you are in Greece in September and October be sure and visit the Wine Festival of Daphni, where for a modest entrance fee, you may drink unlimited quantities of over 100 Greek wines from all over Greece. Be sure and try the Santorini wines! Food and traditional dancing is also part of the venue and its one of the best times out of doors you can have in Greece either solo or with friends! Drive safely!