May 2004 - Venice Italy
Lions are found around every corner you turn in Venice--if not real, then in countless statues. There was a time when the cats of Venice weren't limited to tabbies, as Jan Morris writes in A Venetian Bestiary:
Why a lion as the symbol of Venice? According to legend-in the ninth century two or three ambitious Chamber of Commerce types from Venice stole the remains of St. Mark the Apostle from his tomb in Alexandria, Egypt (everybody stole from them!). Crossing the Mediterranean and cruising up the Adriatic, the grave robbers reached Venice and handed their cargo over to the Doge. The local religious and civic authorities quickly elected St. Mark as Venice's patron saint, and the apostle's traditional symbol--a winged lion--became the logo of the Venetian Republic."From the common cat (felis catus), the Venetians, their horizons enlarged by their imperial and commercial adventures, turned to the lion (leo leo), and were eventually besotted by him. Leo leo turned their heads! They built him onto their corbels, they slipped him into their allegories, they stuck him on gateposts, they made him the corner-stones of bridges. Citizens kept live lions in their gardens, and for a time a State Lion lived in a golden cage in the Piazza; he died, it is said, because licking the bars gave him gilt poisoning, and thereafter captive lions were forbidden for several centuries. When one turned up, though, at the Venetian Carnival of 1762, Pietro Longhi showed him grandly on display, with a little dog on his back, dancing dogs all around him, a monkey on a beam above, a fiddler fiddling, and the strolling Venetians engrossed as ever by his presence."
The following photos were taken in St. Mark's (San Marco) Square.