The Lions of Venice

Whilst wandering around Venice I found myself becoming obsessed with lions. The winged lion is a symbol of Mark the Evangelist, the patron Saint of the city. His remains were bought here from Alexandria in 828 and supposedly lie in the Basilica which was completed in 1094 to house them. Without doubt, the lion is a symbol of power and the Venetian Republic was very powerful for a very long time.


The winged lion is often seen with an open book with the words “Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus” inscribed. This is translated as “Peace be upon you, O Mark, my evangelist”. The open book symbolizes the state’s sovereignty whereas a closed book suggests a delegated sovereignty.


The lions also serve a practical purpose, adorning many doors of Venice as knockers or bells.


Some are ridden and some are hidden.


Some are looking a little sad.


Some are terrifyingly real.


They even appear in some of the paintings housed in the Doge’s Palace and other Museums.


Top tip: If you have kids in tow, you can always suggest a game of “spot the lion” and I’m quite sure it will keep them amused for hours.


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