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  • Writer's pictureRobin Yong

Leone di Venezia ヴェネツィアの獅子

Updated: Apr 2




The Lion of Saint Mark, representing Mark the Evangelist, pictured in the form of a winged lion, is an aspect of the Tetramorph. On the pinnacle of St Mark's Cathedral he is depicted as holding a Bible, and surmounting a golden lion which is the symbol of the city of Venice and formerly of the Venetian Republic.


The representation as a lion is derived from Mark's description of John the Baptist as "...The voice of the one who cries in the wilderness: Prepare Ye the way of the Lord, make straight his paths", which artists compared to a roaring lion. The wings come from Ezekiel 1:10 and the application of the prophet's vision of four winged creatures to the evangelists. These appear again in Revelation 4:7.

A second connection of Mark and lions comes from a tale recounted by Severus Ebn-El-Mokafa: "Once a lion and lioness appeared to John Mark and his father Arostalis while they were traveling in Jordan. The father was very scared and begged his son to escape, while he awaited his fate. John Mark assured his father that Jesus Christ would save them and began to pray. The two beasts fell dead and as a result of this miracle, the father believed in Christ."

In some depictions the lion rests his front paws on the ground, often in cities with rivers or in ones close to water, indicating the Venetian balanced power on land and sea.

Venetian tradition states that when Mark was traveling through Europe, he arrived at a lagoon in Venice, whereby an angel appeared to him and said, "Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum." ("Peace be with thee, O Mark, my evangelist. Here thy body will rest."). This tradition was used as justification by Rustico da Torcello and Bon da Malamocco in 828 for stealing the remains of Mark from his grave in Alexandria, and moving them to Venice, where they were eventually interred in the Basilica of St. Mark.




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 paw. These animals can be seen all around the Mediterranean, usually on top of a classical stone column. The other form is known as the lion "in moleca", in the form of a crab. Here the lion is depicted full-faced with its wings circled around the head and resembling the claws of a crustacean. It is emerging from water, so that the lion "in moleca" is associated with the lagoon and the city, whereas the standing winged lion is thought to be more associated with Venetian territory around the Mediterranean.

The Latin words engraved on the book are Pax Tibi Marce Evangelista Meus, which means Peace unto you, Mark, my Evangelist.

Other elements often included in depictions of the lion include a halo over his head, a book, or a sword in its paws.




The Lion of Saint Mark is a winged lion that symbolically represents Saint Mark the Evangelist, patron of Venice.

It is a symbol used to give an immediate and unique sign of identity and power. It doesn't have an official or political meaning, but only a popular and religious origin.





The Venice Carnevale is not entirely about masked costumers. Local Italians prefer painted faces. Gioacchino Sparrone, a veteran at the Venice Carnevale comes dressed as the Lion of Saint Mark.

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