A mosaic from the monastery, depicting the bathing of new-born Christ.
Daphni or Dafni (Greek: Δαφνί; Katharevousa Δαφνίον, Daphnion) is an 11th-century Byzantine monastery 11 km north-west of central Athens in the suburb of Chaidari, south of Athinon Avenue (GR-8A). It is situated near the forest of the same name, on the Sacred Way that led to Eleusis. The forest covers about 15 to 20 km².
The Daphni Monastery was founded about the turn of the 6th century, Christianizing the site of the Sanctuary of Apollo Daphnaios that had been desecrated by the Goths in 395, and reusing the Ionic columns of the ancient temple of Apollo in its portico; only one remains, the others having been removed to London by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin.
The principal church (katholikon), a fine monument of the 11th-century Byzantine art, is a cross-in-square church of the octagonal type surmounted by a broad and high dome. The church houses the best preserved complex of mosaics from the early Komnenian period (ca. 1100) when an austere and hieratic manner typical for the Macedonian period and represented by the famous Christ Pantocrator image inside the dome, was metamorphosing into a more intimate and delicate style, of which The Angel before St Joachim — with its pastoral backdrop, harmonious gestures and pensive lyricism — is considered a superb example.
According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "the ensemble represents a visualization of the Christian cosmos, its effect created by an intricately conceived interplay of pictures and architecture. Space in fact fuses the decoration into one giant image, in which the ruler, hailed by the prophets surrounding him, presides in his sphere above the host of saints that people the lower part of the room".
^The Latins in Greece and the Aegean from the Fourth Crusade to the End of the Middle Ages, K. M. Setton, The Cambridge Medieval History:Vol IV, The Byzantine Empire, ed. J.M Hussey, D.M. Nicol and G. Cowan, (Cambridge University Press, 1966), 409.