Look for Venice’s lion

leone di venezia

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No there aren’t in Zoo’s in Venice, or bio parks or safari’s to visit while on a gondola ride. There are a lot of fantastic animals in Venice but the most important animal you won’t find when walking along alleys and campielli.  Nevertheless, its presence is dominant and diffused and not only on the island of the Venetian Lagoon.  It is the lion of San Marco, the undeniable symbol of the city and the Venetian Republic.

The Winged Lion

It’s not just any lion obviously. The Venetian Winged Lion represents the symbolic evangelist Saint mark, patron of the city of Venice.  According to an ancient tradition an angel in the form of a winged lion spoke to the saint stranded on the island “Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescat corpus tuum” (Peace to you Mark, my evangelist, here your body will rest) affirming that here in this land his body would one day rest.   

All the versions of the Venetian Lion

Keep your eyes open and gaze up, it won’t be hard to find a lot of Winged lions around Venice.  This symbol in fact isn’t only located in the saint mark square –where you will find a dedicated statue- there is another version in bas-relief with flag and banner. The lion can be found with a book in paws (either opened or close) a sword (holding it or lying beside it; the lion can be Andante meaning the whole body pictured with paw lain on book) or Moléca a frontal view like a crab hence the name. It can be fun searching for the different lions depicted throughout the city and don’t bother listening the many reasons to their differences. (Some correlate the lion with a sword to periods of war for example, but there is no historical truth.)

A symbol throughout the centuries

The winged lion incarnates all the characteristics Venetians love or are proud to describe themselves with: majesty, power, wisdom, justice, peace, military strength and religious mercy. You’ll find many symbols of The Venetian Republic throughout the Mediterranean where over the centuries it had conquered cities and land. Today the Marciano Lion remains the symbol and Venetian flag.

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