Church of Saint George


Church of Saint George at Kournas
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The church of Saint George (Agios Georgios) and Savior (Christos) in Epano Kournas is one of the most important surviving Byzantine monuments of Crete. The original church was a three-aisled basilica with a narthex (12th century), while later an aisle dedicated to Christ was added (13th century). In the 19th century, the narthex was demolished, the double bell tower was built, and the interior was unified to take the form of a two-aisled church. At the arch of the sanctuary of the original basilica and the newer aisle, double windows open. The temple is built in a prominent position with panoramic views of the sea and probably functioned as a monastery, as there are traces of cells around the temple.

Murals dating back to four different layers have been unearthed on the interior surfaces. The first layer is located in the original church, is an interesting specimen of Comnenian hagiography (i.e. from Constantinople), and dates back to the 12th century. It includes the scenes of Deesis in the quarter of the sanctuary, the Communion of the Apostles and the Melismos before hierarchs in the half-cylinder of the niche, saints at lower zones, and evangelical scenes at higher. It also includes Saints George and Saint Theodosius the Cenobiarch in the quarter-sphere of the lateral arches, co-officiating hierarchs before the Melismos in the half-cylinder, among whom is Peter of Alexandria.

The second layer of frescoes extends to the newer aisle of Christ and dates back to the fourth decade of the 13th century and is also considered of high quality. It includes the scenes of Deesis and co-officiating hierarchs in the niche of the aisle, Saints Stephen and Saint Germaine in the north pillar, the Crucifixion in the west gable, and various other traces in a few more places.

The third layer dates to the end of the 13th century and is located in the niche of the newer aisle, overlapping part of the older decoration. Finally, the fourth layer dates to the beginning of the 14th century and includes the icon of Christ the Illuminator, which replaced the depiction of Deesis in the original three-aisled temple. This fourth layer has been removed by the archeological service.

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Additional Info

  • Location: Chania Prefecture
  • Type: Church
  • Peak Period: Venetian Era (1204 AD - 1669 AD)
  • Accessibility: Paved road

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