Monday, October 24, 2016

The Lion of Saint Mark

Ezekiel 1:5-28New King James Version (NKJV)

"Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man. Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings.  Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze.  The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings. Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward.
As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.  Thus were their faces. Their wings stretched upward; two wings of each one touched one another, and two covered their bodies.  And each one went straight forward; they went wherever the spirit wanted to go, and they did not turn when they went."

I have been reading various translations of Dante's Comedy for many years as well as works and courses about it, so I developed an interest in Christian imagery and iconography. We saw these four figures, an angel, eagle, winged lion, and winged bull in painting and sculpture in many places, these examples are from the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, a stunning church a few blocks from our hotel. Some googling indicated they represent the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Since Venice is reputed to be the final resting place of the body of St. Mark a winged lion became a symbol of the city, and a favourite of my wife.

"St Mark, represented as a lion, is a typical Christian iconography derived from the prophetic visions contained in the verse of the Apocalypse of St John 4:7. The lion is one of the four living creatures described in the book as a place around the throne of the Almighty and they are chosen as symbols of the four evangelists. These "beings" were previously described by the prophet Ezekiel."
from Wikipedia

The Lion of St. Mark is depicted everywhere in Venice, in painting, sculptures and of course tourist fare like T-shirts, flags and busts, we came home with all three. 

Lions abound around St. Mark's Square and Basilica

Doge Francesco Foscari and the Lion

The Giant's Staircase at the Doge's Palace

The Doge's Palace

At the Arsenal of Venice

At a fish farm in the Venice Lagoon

At the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari

The lion below adorns the monument to Titian

This rather melancholy lion occupies the memorial to the 
sculptor Canova

             Doge's Palace Vittore Carpaccio, The Lion of St Mark, 1516 

and detail

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