The winged lion is a mythological symbol, which represents the patron saint, the Evangelist, Saint Mark. It shows a lion with bird-like wings. It is the traditional symbol of the city of Venice and previously belonged to the Republic of Venice.
The Griffin was considered as a Christian symbol for the Church’s ideals on marriage. It was also used to symbolize Jesus.
The lion, considered as the king of the land, is one of the most widely known animal symbols. It has been used in paintings and carvings, finds a mention in literature, and has been depicted on flags.
The lion is one of the most preferred symbols of leadership and emperors. Since many centuries, it has been used as a sign for all that is considered as majestic because of its noble character, alertness, courage, strength, and power. It is seen in the Asian, African, and European cultures. It is carved on or erected as a statue on buildings, and believed to safeguard castles, bridges, churches, and tombs. It is also symbolic of values like self-control, strength, courage, and power. At present, the animal is mostly used as a symbol of fearlessness as the roar of the animal is firm and strong. The lion has also been highlighted in fables of the 6th century.
The Winged Lion of Venice
The winged lion is the symbol of St. Mark, the Evangelist, who was an Apostle. It has been a traditional symbol of Venice since a very long time. St. Mark has been considered as Venice’s patron saint from the time his remains were stolen from a tomb in Alexandria, Egypt, where Mark had founded the first Christian church and was brought to Venice in 828 AD by two merchants. Initially, St. Theodore of Amasea was the patron saint of Venice. With passing time, the city of Venice developed and prospered. The people then thought that a more esteemed saint was required. Hence, St. Mark came to be considered as the patron saint.
The symbol of the lion comes from St. Mark’s description in his Gospel, which starts with the words “remember the voice of John the Baptist in the wilderness, rises like a roar, announcing the coming of Jesus to men.” His voice was said to be like that of a lion roaring. The book also tells that the lion was one of the four creatures standing around the throne of the Almighty. The lion is a symbol of power and majesty. The winged lion symbolism appeared in Prophet Ezekiel’s vision where four winged creatures represent the four evangelists; Matthew as a human, Mark as a lion, Luke as a bull, and John as an eagle. An open book is seen lying below the front legs of the lion. It contains the text, ‘Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus.’ The book is believed to symbolize the state’s sovereignty. Some depictions show a halo about the lion’s head, the book with the words abbreviated to their initials, and the lion.
The symbol of St. Mark’s lion can be seen throughout Venice. One of the spots to find the winged lion is the Piazzetta di San Marco in Venice, Italy where the bronze-winged lion sculpture stands atop two large granite columns in the Square. Another one is at Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, Italy.
The Winged Lion in Other Forms
The griffin is well-known as one of the fascinating mythical animals of the ancient Greeks. The symbol comprises the bodily attributes of the hind legs of a lion and the head, neck, and wings of an eagle. Also, its front feet have the claws of an eagle. The lion was considered as the lord of the beasts and the eagle, and the lord of birds. Hence, the griffin was believed to be an extremely powerful and supreme creature. The legendary creature was believed to be the lord of all beings. Griffins are believed to be safeguarding money, jewels, and other expensive items. The Griffin was also associated by the Romans with the Sun god Apollo, as the Sun is fiery and intense. Hence, it was to be feared and honored.
This symbol was known as lamassu to the Assyrians. It is depicted as a winged lion (or a bull) with the wings of an eagle and the head of a human. The eagle is usually associated with the Sun god, which controls and strengthens the lion, and the human head symbolizes intelligence.