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St.

Georges Church in Kurbinovo, Prespa-1191 The interior of this small and on the outside homely church contains some of the most valuable murals in Eastern Christian art. Their thematic-iconographic and stylistic features legitimise the authors, presumed to have been two, as being highly theologically educated and as having superior talent. For the first time in Slavonic-Byzantine art, the Liturgy of the Archpriests takes place before the Lamb, which is a permanent reminiscence of Christs sacrifice. This is the first known representation of the Lamb and it standardised the iconography of the bottommost zone in Byzantine churches. Eight holy fathers take part in the Liturgy, including St. Achilles of Larisa, the patron of Tsar Samuels Patriarchal Church. Shown frontally on the lateral walls, St. Cyril, St. Methodius and St. Clement of Ohrid observe the Liturgy. This is the earliest surviving portrait of St. Methodius in Byzantine art and the first depiction of the two brothers and pan-Slavonic enlighteners together. Painted beside the portrait of his namesake Roman pope, St. Clement of Ohrids portrait is the only one known from the 12th century and provides continuity to his centuries-long portrayal in the Balkans. The nave is painted in three zones. In the first zone there are the standing figures of the saints. Among them, the frescoes showing Christ and the patron St. George, located by the altar partition, are remarkable for their monumentality, decorativeness and magnificence, while the depiction of Anne suckling her daughter Maria, placed by her husband, old Joachim, is remarkable for its rareness. The themes of motherhood, including representations of nursing women are very rare in Byzantine art. The second zone of the nave contains scenes from the Great Feasts and the Passion. The scene of the visitation of the Mother of God to Elizabeth is also included. Among the iconographic patterns of the scenes, that of the Assumption is particularly remarkable. Although it may seem conventional at first glance, the depiction includes a Mandorla in which there is billowy live water with realistic and monstrous animals and fish; among other things, there is a lion with a face of an old man and a snake tail. Here Christs ascension above the water-the source of life-also symbolises the function of the Terrible Judge, as it was said in the Acts of the Apostles. The fundamental feature of the Kurbinovo master-painters composite style is that he achieved expressiveness through superior refinement. The drapery and the lines take the precedence in the expression. The figures internal world reflects in the unrestrained dance of the folds. The figures are elongated and strikingly slim. The obvious ideal to achieve disembodiment and a balance between ultimate elegance and ultimate expressiveness has been achieved immaculately. The church has preserved few but precious traces of its later life. The fragments illustrating parts of its patrons biography, painted in the 14 th century, are discernible on the south facade, around what used to be an entrance. Undoubtedly, this shrines fame and the reverence it enjoyed in the region have contributed to its continuous life. The circumstances of the Turkish rule reduced but never extinguished its activity.