Daphni & Hosios Loukas Monasteries (Attica & Central Mainland - Greece)

Again back to my Uni days, in my art history classes, reading about early Christian art and there was Byzantine Era. The examples I had studied were from Ravenna, Italy and it was only by chance that I came to know Byzantine Art not just thrived, but was considered second Golden Age, in Greece. While there are actually way too many Byzantine churches in Greece, 3 of those have stunning mosaic artworks still intact. I managed to visit 2 of those - Daphni, near Athens and Osios Loukas, near Delphi. The 3rd one is Nea Moni is located in Chios Island which was a bit too far away.


First of all - what is Byzantine art? Its an early Christian art of 5th-14th C CE. The speciality is their mosaic works. Little bits of colored mosaics (obviously naturally dyed, since its way before synthetic dyed were invented) were put together to form gorgeous wall murals. This may not sound impressive if you're imagining geometric patterns, imagine human beings with all details & expressions made of tiny little colored mosaics put together - impressive yet??!!!!


Daphni: Originally this monastery was built in 6th C CE, however the current structure belongs to 11th C CE. As soon as you enter, is the inner courtyard with the church in the right. This is an octogonal church with a huge dome atop. The back of the church opens up to the outer courtyard which has 4 huge ionic columns and to its side is the museum that houses the sculptures, tombstones etc retrieved from this site. 


Inside the church is where the magic is! The mosaic work here belongs to 11th C CE, which is Middle Byzantine Period. Right on the dome, in the centre is Jesus Christ. The paintings are heavily corroded in several places. However all the corners are somehow protected. There were angels, prophets, saints, martyrs etc. In the local sections, the fallen mosaics have been replaced by frescoes in 17th C  CE.

Osios Loukas: Just the setting of the Osios Loukas Monastery is mind blowing. Its located in the west slope of Mt.Helikon. To imagine the monks to have lived here and appreciated the God's creations of the mountainous landscape and starry nights would have been just perfect! This is huge in comparison to Daphni. Its a complex of 2 churches, 1 crypt & more.

Our first stop in this complex was the crypt. Its filled with so so so many frescoes. Every bit of the wall is filled is with frescoes. Somehow, probably because of its the crypt, the paintings are all almost well preserved. They were covered in layers of dust over the years when discovered in 1900s. Its believed they were painted in later part of 11th C CE.


Our 2nd stop was into the churches. Both are interconnected. The corridor in front of the churches is....... 'Golden Gorgeousness', filled with golden mosaic work!!! It was badly lit and no matter how hard we tried, we couldn't capture it on our camera. Go there and see it for yourself!

The mosaics here are much more well preserved than Daphni. Here's the magnificent mosaic of Jesus of Navi. These too are believed to belong to 11th C CE. Now, let me get back to the technique - the lines & wrinkles on the face, the shadows in the eye sockets, the iris of the eye, the lines of the hair - everything is made of small, solid colored marble chips, perfectly arranged, to give a painting like effect with all lights & shadows!!!

After the 2 churches, in the floor above is where the monks originally lived and today serves as a museum. There is one room which is set up just like how it would have been when the monks lived here, with all the belongings etc. This is followed by a passage that talks about the history, anthropology and the architecture of the monastery. Further ahead is the museum of the sculptures and other objects retrieved from this site.
Here's an amazing thing that happened in Osios Loukas Church. I was given the holy bread and Loukoumi. I took a bite of the Loukoumi and I instantly asked what was the difference between this & Turkish Delight. Turns out, there isn't any. Just like how Indian Cuisine & Pakistani Cuisine is overlapped because basically both belong to the same region, Greece, being neighbors with Turkey, the 2 dishes are basically the same. But then, I've never had a Turkish Delight without gelatin and this Loukoumi was the homemade version made of cornstarch and it was so so so so so so so heavenly. I haven't tasted any dessert like that! It was like eating a sweet, rose flavoured cloud! 


Here's a tip: Osios Loukas church is still a functioning church. So maintain the decorum as in any religious place.

Entry Tickets & Timings:
Daphni: Free; Mon, Wed, Fri - 8:00AM to 3:00PM
Osios Loukas: €4 (€2 in winters) for the museum; All days - 8:30AM to 3:30PM

To Get There:
From Athens to Daphni: 15km. Can be reached by metro + bus
From Athens to Hosios Loukas: 169 km (on the way to Delphi)
From Delphi to Hosios Loukas: 36 km (via Arachova)

My complete - 
Peloponnese TravelogueDay trip to PeloponneseMycenae & TirynsEpidaurus
Attica Travelogue: Athens, Daphni Monastery
Central Mainland Travelogue: Delphi, Hosios Loukas Monastery

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. I am a wanderlust.. Read more about me here.

22 comments:

  1. These are some stunning structures, and so impressive they're still standing too. I remember visiting Daphni a while ago, but can't remember visiting the church. You're right about the mosaics in the monastery, they're incredible to look at, and detailed too.

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  2. It's always so fascinating to see overlapping cultures, and the connection between Loukoumi and Turkish Delight is really interesting! The church is absolutely beautiful. The mosaics are so detailed, it's crazy to think how much history lies here.

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  3. These are some really interesting monasteries of the bygone era. Preserving these is a deal. Daphni looks really antique. Would love to include these in my Greek itinerary.

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  4. very nice post and great genuine post Sharing content and I am completely agree with you,


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  5. I love visiting churches when I travel to see the incredible art and architecture. Osios Loukas Monastery looks particularly enchanting! I would love to study the details of those mosaics in person!

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  6. This reminds me of the old Byzantine churches we saw in Istanbul. I love this style it's so rich and evocative. Thanks for sharing this place, definitely love to visit here one day.

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  7. I have always been fascinated with Byzantine art. I remember my history classes and that's where I tried reading more books about it. It would be surreal to see them up close. Hoping to get the opportunity to visit in the future.

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  8. Stunning architecture. The mosaic tiles are beautiful and reminiscent of some of the popular tiling Tunisia is well known for. Osios Loukas Monastery looks like one to add to my list when I revisit Greece next year.

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  9. I visited this place a couple of years ago and I loved the stunning structures of the complex. The mosaics in the monastery are fascinating, I could stare at them for hours and not get bored

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  10. This are one of the prettiest pieces of architecture in Greece. I saw many of these in Athens, but those look larger and more intersting

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  11. Byzatine art is so incredibly ornate with all the colorful mosaic! I would love to see it first hand one day!

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  12. I'm a big fan of visiting churches when I travel, I think it's a great way to get to know a place. I love seeing the different architectural styles over the centuries, but I also enjoy that they tend to display famous religious paintings and sculptures. Plus, they're just about always free to visit!

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  13. Coming from Croatia and as an art and history lover, I am familiar with Byzantine Era and Byzantine Art. And it's true: so much beauty in Byzantine mosaic artworks!

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  14. Coming from Croatia and as an art and history lover, I am familiar with Byzantine Era and Byzantine Art. And it's true: so much beauty in Byzantine mosaic artworks!

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  15. Coming from Croatia and as an art and history lover, I am familiar with Byzantine Era and Byzantine Art. And it's true: so much beauty in Byzantine mosaic artworks!

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  16. I am so glad I came accroy this post of yours. I have never been to Greece before but I am going add this to my bucket list of Greece. After reading your post, I just wanna pack my bags and book flights to Greece.

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  17. The DAPHNI & HOSIOS LOUKAS MONASTERIES are both one for the book. I love the History behind these Monasteries, and their intricate design are really amazing. I hope to traipse my feet here soon If i get the chance. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

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  18. That's so interesting that you're allowed to take photos in the church in Greece. In Europe they seem to always allow no photographs.

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  19. I like to look into the history of a place I travel too, I especially like to visit traditional buildings and churches. I remember studying the Byzantine era at school so found this post really interesting. The mosaics are beautiful.

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  20. Honestly, I'm not likely to visiting churches when traveling. But your post really push me to visit it when I travel to Greece. From the movie and now from your post, I will put those on top of my bucket list in Greece :)

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