Saint Mark and Venice

The Lion of St. Mark

From the facade, Basilica di San Marco

    The four gospel-writing evangelists each have a living symbol: St John has an eagle, St. Luke a winged ox, St. Matthew a winged man, and St Mark the winged lion. There are various suggestions for the origins of these symbols, probably the most convincing being that they were drawn from The Book of Revelation: 

And the first beast was like a lion, and the second beast like a calf, and the third beast had a face as a man, and the fourth beast was like a flying eagle. And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.   Rev 4. 7-8. 

  An alternative reading of the Lion of St Mark suggests that it is drawn from the opening lines of St. Mark's gospel, which itself is a quote from Isaiah: 
   The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.  Mark  1.3.
    This idea may need some explanation. The cry in the the wilderness could be the sound of a lion, or the voice of John the Baptist roaring for 'all the land of Judea to repent'.  The lion is also the symbol of Judah, the house of David.

   From the point of view of Venice, the lion symbol also represents power and belligerence - a perfect representation of the city state itself. 

St Mark Index 

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