The church of St George in the centre of Kournas, a settlement with interesting folk architecture. It was built at the end of the 12th century, originally with the style of the three part, wood roofed basilica with a silicon with a narthex and blind arches on the lateral sides. In around 1230 was added in the south the single-room, wood roofed part of Christ.
Later the wooden roof was replaced by pointed-edged arches with arrows in the main aisles and semi-cylindric in the secondary ones. At the end of the 19th century some arch series, that divided the aisles and the southern wall of the initial basilica, were replaced by large arches for the unification of the room, while the narthex was demolished and a beautifully adorned belfry was added. The corners were supported by chiselled planks. Later two large windows were opened on the southern and the northern wall.
Inside was revealed by the works of the 13th Ephorate of Byzantine Antiquities under the wall plaster, partly preserved wall-painting decoration, which dates back to three periods.
It was found that at first full-body saints were painted in the lower parts of the walls an scenes from the Gospels in the upper parts. The representation of the Apostles’ Communion is preserved in a very good condition. There is also a representation of a extra-sized Christ the Light-Giver, with the Mother of Chist and John the Precursor in a smaller scale.
The first layer of the painting, in which two artists are recognized, dates from the end of the 12th century and is an excellent work. It is particularly important that, despite the use of the line in the painting, there is an strong plasticity in the representation of the bulks and a tranparency in the colors.
The second layer extends to the aisle of Christ and to the surfaces of the arched opening, that was created across the masonry of the bema and destroyed part of the initial decoration. This intervention probably also accounts for the transformation of the southern aisle into a vaulted one and its decoration with wall-paintings. In the hollow an extra-sized Christ is pictured again and in the cylinder officiating prelates.
The initial layer has been hammered and covered by a later one. In the opening between the two churches the exquisite pictures of St Stefanos and St German are preserved, the main characteristic of which is the plasticity of the faces in contrast to the flat bodies. In the pediment of the western wall is partly preserved a representation of the Crucifixion with the youthful figure of Johne the theologian
next to the Centurion.
The initial decoration of Christ’s aisel dates from the third decade of the 13th century, while later it was partly covered with the next layer of painting. The representation of the Prayer in the hollow of St George was also replaced by a newer one in the early 14th century. As to its architectural style the original church of St George is a sample of the evolution of the middle byzantine architecture in Crete with simplification of its elements.
The initial decoration confirms the fact that Crete during the middle byzantine period was, in artistic terms, an important province, which received high quality influences from the capital until about the middle of the 13th century.