Daphni Monastery in Athens, Greece

Any tourist visiting the Greek capital is bound to see its prestigious World Heritage site, the Acropolis of Athens, sooner or later. It’s the most recognizable landmark visible from any corner of the city.

Athens’s other World Heritage property, however, remains lesser-known and lesser-visited. The reason may be its location on the outskirts of the city, for one thing, as well as its being medieval rather than ancient, and perhaps because its UNESCO status is shared by two other sites in Greece, as “Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas and Nea Moni of Chios” inscribed in 1990.

In the heart of a laurel grove covering seven square miles in the Athens suburb of Chaidari, Daphni Monastery was founded in the 6th century on the site of an Apollonian sanctuary along the sacred way connecting Athens with Eleusis. It had a major makeover in the 11th and 12th centuries, adorned with golden mosaics.

Though the monastery was attacked, sacked, and left to ruin by Frankish invaders in 1205, its mosaics survived into the present day. On the ceiling is a medallion of the Christ Pantocrator in Byzantine style in all its splendor.

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