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The Winged Lion Of Venice

Many cities have the lion as an emblem or mascot and the ‘king of the jungle’ is exceedingly loved when it comes to heraldry. But the winged lion belongs to Venice. The winged lion is the Republic’s guardian angel and he, in some form or another, is watching every step you take in the city. He is the symbol of Saint Mark the Evangelist; when the Venetians stole the body of the Evangelist in 828 from Alexandria and brought him to Venice for safekeeping, Mark became the patron saint of the Republic, knocking Saint Theodore and his dragon off their patron perch.

The winged lion became the most loved symbol of the city. All four Evangelists -Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – have wings on their attributes, which could symbolise the sacredness of their writings and the holiness of the first four books of the New Testament; how their attributes were allocated to the four men in the first place, however, remains a mystery.

One thought is that they refer to the beginning scene in each of the Evangelists’ gospels. For example, Mark begins his book with Saint John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, and the lion is a wilderness animal; Luke’s symbol is the bull because he starts his gospel with Zechariah in the temple, where sacrifices are made, and the bull is symbolic of sacrifice. Another explanation comes from the Old Testament. It is written that the prophet Ezekiel had a vision of a winged creature with four faces, those of an eagle, a bull, a lion and a man.

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