Venice by Jan Morris

Venice by Jan Morris

Author:Jan Morris [Morris, Jan]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: Travel, Europe, Italy, Essays & Travelogues, Special Interest, General
ISBN: 9780571247882
Google: uR6ubPPEY30C
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Published: 2008-10-01T23:00:00+00:00

In earlier times the lion had more honourable roles to play. He rode rampant upon the beaks of the Venetian war-galleons, and fluttered on the banner of St Mark. His friendship for St Jerome automatically elevated that old scholar high in the Venetian hagiarchy. He stood guard beside thrones and palaces, frowned upon prisoners, gave authenticity to the State documents of the Republic. His expression varied according to his function. In one Croatian town, after a rebellion against Venetian rule, a very disapproving lion was erected: the usual words on his open book, Pax Tibi, Marce, were replaced with the inscription Let God Arise, and Let His Enemies Be Scattered. In Zara, which revolted seven times against Venice, and withstood thirty-two Venetian sieges, a lion was erected, so the chroniclers tell us, ‘with a gruff expression, his book closed and his tail contorted like an angry snake’. In a seventeenth-century map of Greece the lion is shown striding into action against the Turk, his wings outstretched, a sword in his paw, and the Doge’s hat on his head. The Venetians respected him so much that some of the patricians even used to keep live lions in their gardens. A fourteenth-century writer reported excitedly that the pair in the zoological gardens beside the Basin of St Mark’s had given birth to a couple of thriving cubs: they were fed, like the pelicans of St James’s Park, at the expense of the State.

I cannot help thinking that the old Venetians went a little queer about lions, for the profusion of stone specimens in Venice is almost unbelievable. The city crawls with lions, winged lions and ordinary lions, great lions and petty lions, lions on doorways, lions supporting windows, lions on corbels, self-satisfied lions in gardens, lions rampant, lions soporific, amiable lions, ferocious lions, rickety lions, vivacious lions, dead lions, rotting lions, lions on chimneys, on flower-pots, on garden gates, on crests, on medallions, lurking among foliage, blatant on pillars, lions on flags, lions on tombs, lions in pictures, lions at the feet of statues, lions realistic, lions symbolic, lions heraldic, lions archaic, mutilated lions, chimerical lions, semi-lions, super-lions, lions with elongated tails, feathered lions, lions with jewelled eyes, marble lions, porphyry lions, and one real lion, drawn from the life, as the artist proudly says, by the indefatigable Longhi, and hung among the rest of his genre pictures in the Querini-Stampalia gallery. There are Greek lions, Gothic lions, Byzantine lions, even Hittite lions. There are seventy-five lions on the Porta della Carta, the main entrance to the Doge’s Palace. There is a winged lion on every iron insurance plate. There is even a sorrowing lion at the foot of the Cross itself, in a picture in the Scuola di San Marco.

The most imperial lion in Venice is the winged beast painted by Carpaccio in the Doge’s Palace, with a moon-lily beside his front paw, and a tail four or five feet long. The ugliest pair of lions lie at the feet of


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