Winged lions, Venice
“Venice is like eating an entire box of chocolate liqueurs in one go.”
—Truman Capote (1924-1984)
Have fun in Venice! Behave as if you just eat an entire box of chocolate liqueurs. Here is a suggestion for a fun thing to do.
Is your astrological sign Leo, the lion? If it is, or if you travel with some who is a Leo as I do, let me suggest a fun way to recognize the Leo in your life and in the process take some unique and fun photos: pose with architectural and decorative lions.
Because Venice has adopted the Winged Lion of San Marco as its symbol, there are many lions to pose with throughout the city. There are indoor and outdoor lions; ancient and modern ones; large and small lions; some are on doors as knockers, while others are integrated into fountains; there’s a lion for every Leo in Venice.
Here are some suggested venues for posing with lions.
Photos #1 & #2 were taken with the crouching red marble lions that stand in Piazzetta dei Leoncini, directly to the right of Basilica di San Marco.
Photo #3 was taken at the gate to the bell tower of St. Mark.
Photo #4 was taken at a souvenir shop in the Dorsoduro section of Venice.
Photo #5 was taken in Campo Manin. This is likely the best lion for posing with in the whole city.
When visiting Venice, all Leo are in good company. Although the following Venetian Leos are not household names, they did make valuable contributions to art and science. Vincenzo Coronelli (16.August.1650–1718), a Franciscan monk, cosmographer, cartographer, and an encyclopedist, he was renown for his atlases and globes; Giambattista Benedetti (14.August.1530–1590) a mathematician; Fra Paolo Sarpi (14.August.1552–1623), a scholar, scientist and church reformer; Guido Castelnuovo (14.August.1865–1952) a mathematician; Alberto Ongaro (22.August.1925– ), journalist, writer and comic book writer.
“You have murdered my children; the winged lion of St. Mark must lick the dust.”
—Napoleon’s angry response to the Venetian pleas for mercy, May 1797. Napoleon ruled all of northern Italy in 1797, except for the Venetian Republic, which he wanted. The Venetian army ambushed French troops near Verona and its navy fired on French ships in the Adriatic Sea. Both resulted in the loss of lives.
Venice is home to St. Mark’s Square and St. Mark’s Basilica — and for centuries the city has used the Winged Lion of St. Mark as its symbol. The winged lion comes from St. Mark’s description of John the Baptist’s voice “crying out in the wilderness” upon hearing the Word of God (Mark 1:3). His voice is said to have sounded like that of a roaring lion.
Lion symbolism is seen elsewhere in the Bible; this time in the Old Testament. The Prophet Ezekiel has a vision of four winged creatures, representing the four evangelists (Ezekiel 1:10). Matthew is represented by an angel, Mark by a lion, Luke by a bull, and John by an eagle.
Visions of lions in Venice are not limited to San Marco’s winged versions. Lion heads can be seen as keystones above windows and doors; as supports for window ledges; and as general exterior building decoration (see the collage, photo #3).
“Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus.”
This Latin phrase translates into English as Peace be upon you, O Mark, my Evangelist. The lion of Venice is usually depicted with his right front paw resting an open Bible, showing the above text. Venetian lore tells us the following. When visiting the northern region of Italy, later to become the Veneto, Mark was approached by an angel; he was greeted with the above words, and told that the Venetian lagoon would be his final resting place.
The winged lion is the attribute of St. Mark the Evangelist, Patron Saint of the City of Venice. The body of Our Saint was brought to Venice in AD 828. Two Venetian merchants smuggled the remains of the Evangelist past Muslim customs inspectors from his tomb in Alexandria, Egypt. The corpse was placed in a basket and covered with pork. Because Islamic law prohibits its followers touching pork, the basket was allowed to pass without careful examination. Venice’s original patron saint had been St. Theodore of Amasea, a soldier-saint known for his victory over a dragon. As Venice grew and became an important player in world affairs, the city needed a more prestigious saint. St. Mark filled that role.
When Venice was at war, the lion was shown holding a sword in one paw and with one paw on the Bible, though safely closed. Another way of showing the lion is with a halo about the his head, the words on the Bible abbreviated to their initials, and the lion in moleca, showing only the head, top of the body, and paws (see photos #3 & #5).
The winged lion is seen everywhere in Venice; it is even used as the grand prize for the Venice Film Festival, Leone d’Oro, or the Golden Lion.
If you have ever believed that the city which has the most lions in the world is in Africa, you have never been to Venice.
Venice is the only place which showcases the largest number of lions in the world. The beautiful sculptures of the winged lion of Venice are hanging in almost every corner of the city .They are also found in the city which was conquered during its vast dominium and ancient Republic.
The winged lion is usually accompanied by a halo, a sword and a book under the front right foot on which the motto reads: "Pax tibi Marce, Evangelista meus' (Peace be with you, Mark, my Evangelist). The full sentence would also include the words, "Hic requiescet tuum corpus" or "Here rest your body," which, according to an ancient tradition, an angel in the form of a winged lion would turn to the saint, shipwrecked in the lagoons and would announce that for one day in those lands he would find his body in a place of rest and worship. In fact, the body of St. Mark was brought to Venice by two Venetian merchants, Buono da Malamocco and Rustico da Torcello, after it was stolen from Alexandria in Egypt.
The Venetian lion appears in two distinct forms. One is as a winged animal resting on water, to symbolise dominance over the seas, holding St. Mark’s Gospel under a front paw. You can see these mighty animals all round the Mediterranean, usually on top of a classical stone column. The other form, which is perhaps more interesting, is known as the lion “in moleca”.
It is still a fact that the lion, the symbol of majesty and power, has always been a figure that has fascinated the Venetians. In addition to the many sculptural representations that we can find around the city or representations of armorial bearings, such as painted flags in Venice, real lions could be found even in the gardens of the palaces. Even in 1316 a lioness gave birth in the courtyard of the Palazzo Ducale to the surprise of all the people.
Through the years, Venetians have been replicating sculptures of lions and there are still few companies in Venice, such as Ithaca Art www.ithaca-art.com who continues to replicate by carefully following the ancient techniques.
If you want to know more about Venetian Lions or add a Venetian touch to your home and garden you can buy a replica at Ithaca Art at www.ithaca-art.com/venetian-lions
Want to know more about Venetian lions? Visit www.ithaca-art.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Winged lions can be found all over the city of Venice, in all shapes and sizes. The winged lion became the symbol of the city after the body of St. Mark the Evangelist was stolen and brought to Venice around 828 A.D. The four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are each represented by a winged creature, and St. Mark's symbol is a winged lion. Unfortunately, when Napoleon captured the city of Venice in 1797, he gave orders to destroy winged lions all over the city since they were considered a symbol of the Republic - even the one sitting on top of St. Mark's column was temporarily removed. After Napoleon's defeat, most winged lions were restored to their original locations and copies were made to replace those that had been destroyed beyond repairs. They now stand once again as proud symbols of "la Serenissima".
Well not only in Kenya ;-)
The lion is the symbol of Venice and they can be seen almost everywhere in Venice. The obvious places are in St Marks on the Basilica and in the small piazzata fronting the lagoon on top of one of the columns there. I liked spotting the unusual ones like this one -one of a pair - on a wall in Salizada San Polo.
In the distance you can see the Lion of St.Marks. It is towering high up in the sky on a huge pillar. But with a pair of binoculars (or a good zoom lens on your camera) you will be able to take a good look at it.
All around Venice you will find the symbol of a winged lion. This is the symbol of Venice. It was the symbol of the St. Mark which is, of course, the patron saint of Venice.