The church St. George represents one of the rarest and most valuable testimonies of Byzantine art in the Balkan Peninsula. Its fresco-painting represents an original and a unique peak of artistic mastery in the times of Comnenus, who ruled the Byzantine Empire from 1081 to 1185.
The church is located on the beautiful lower slopes of Pelister mountain (National Park Pelister) with a magnificent view on Prespa lake that connects North Macedonia, Greece and Albania and creates the only triple border on fresh water in Europe.
St. George church was built in the 12th century, in the village of Kurbinovo, during the reign of Isaac II Angelos. The decoration of the church started on 25th April 1191, according to the original inscription from the fresco “Honorary table” in the north part of the altar which is almost completely preserved.
The single-nave building with a semicircular apse is 17 meters long and 7 meters wide. It is the largest single-nave church in North Macedonia. The exterior, with its simple and austere architectural style, contains an unsuspected pictorial richness.
The fresco-painting in the interior of the church is divided into three zones. The frescoes illustrate scenes from the life of Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary. In the altar apse, the composition Annunciation is painted, that has made this church exclusive and a part of the annals of the peak achievements of the Byzantine fresco-painting. Interesting and rare are the depictions of Jesus Christ and the patron of the church, St. George, from the north and the south wall, with a monumental size. On the west facade, there are visible remnants of frescoes with depictions of the unknown donor of the church, together with the imperial couple Isaac II Angelos and his wife Margarita, as well the figure of the archbishop Johan Kamatir.
The continuity of the importance of the church is witnessed by some later additions on the southern façade, as well as by the presence of a scene of St. Demetrius, on the north wall, executed at the end of the 16th or the beginning of the 17th century.
It is very likely that the church was abandoned in the 17th century. During the 19th it was rediscovered, and in the first decades of the 20th century, the wooden ceiling of the Kurbinovo church was replaced and a porch was built. The southern and the northern entrances were closed and transformed into two windows. These interventions did not damage the murals.
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).