The Byzantine monastery of Dafni comprises various buildings (laid out in a square plan), constructed over a long period of time, starting on the 11th century AD (Delinikolas et al. 2003). Currently, most of the buildings are in ruins, with the exception of the Katholikon, part of the internal range of cells, the cistern and the northern fortification walls.
The Katholikon belongs to the octagonal type and preserves large part of the original mural mosaics. It comprises the main church, the sanctuary, the narthex and four chapels, which complete its orthogonal plan. In the western part, only the perimeter walls of an exonarthex or portico and those of a spiral stairway tower leading to the upper floor have survived (Figs 1, 2, 5). The central part of the main church is
cross-shaped in plan, the hemispherical dome rising over its square core. The dome is 8,2 m in diameter and 16,4 m high, and rests on an almost cylindrical drum with 16 piers and 16 vaulted windows. The dome and its drum are carried by eight pendentives and eight arches (four semicircular and four embodied in the squinches of the corners), forming an octagon and achieving in this way the transition from circle to square. Thus, twelve piers (laying out in a square plan), provide support to the dome together with the groin vaulted arms of the cross, situated in a higher level (Figs 3 & 4). All the other parts of the monument are covered with byzantine groin vaults.
As one can clearly distinguish in Figures 1 and 3, the exterior face of the vertical perimeter walls are built according to the enclosed brick system (stones with bricks around them), following two different masonry construction types. In fact, there is a lower zone, built with large dimension stones (often, reused material), their length placed horizontally or vertically, in order to form crosses, and un upper zone constructed with ashlar masonry, using smaller and perfectly cut orthogonal stones (Delinikolas et al. 2003). Bricks are placed in all horizontal joints, and in most of the vertical ones. The thickness of mortar joints is of 3 cm approximately. Plain brick masonry was used in the construction of all the windows and doors (Fig. 2). In the internal face of the perimeter walls, as well as in internal masonry elements in general, the enclosed brick system is not followed systematically, whereas in various locations, a mixture of cut, semi-cut and rubble stones are used together with bricks. Thus, the thickness of masonry joints is varying. Finally the entire vaulted roof was constructed with plain brick masonry.
Both the lower and upper parts of the perimeter walls are constructed following the three-leaf masonry type, with varying widths of the leaves, as will be more analytically presented below (Section 9).
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