The Horses of St. Mark’s are the only exemple of quadriga, a team of 4 horses, to have survived from the antiquity.

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Venetian streets are filled with historic mementos that are a  testament to its status as one of Italy’s most remarkable cities.  Each artistic wonder and long-standing tradition comes with a  story imbued with the triumph and passion that continue to  entice tourists to this maritime republic.  –

Venetian masks

“Man is least himself when he talks in his own  person. Give him a mask and he will tell you the  truth.” – Oscar Wilde.  From the thirteenth century until 1797, the tradition  of Venetian masks reflected Wilde’s notion of  concealed identity. During this period, the Veneto  Republic upheld its reputation as one of the wealthiest  regions in Italy. Venetian masks were luxuries that  allowed citizens to choose their own identities, despite  their social standings.

The Horses of St. Mark 

Made of gilded copper, the Horses of St. Mark, also  called the Quadriga, stand tall atop San Marco  Basilica. Acquired by the Republic of Venice in 1204  after Western European armies ransacked Constantinople,  the four life-sized horses are constant  reminders of Venice’s global connections. “To me, the  horses are both a symbol of Venice and of the violence  of history,” says Pietro Giordan, Chair of the  Department of Languages, Literature and Linguistics  at York University. “Since Venice played the role of  cultural bridge between Europe and the Middle East,  the horses represent that kind of (close) otherness  that played such an important role in the construction  of Venetian culture.”

And part of this culture remains within the transient  history of the Quadriga; the horses were taken to  Paris from Venice under Napoleon’s reign, and then  repatriated to Italy in 1815. From the First World War  to the next, the horses were protected in various parts  of Italy until they were permanently placed in the  museum of San Marco Basilica for conservation.  Since 1977, replicas of the Quadriga have replaced the  originals atop the Basilica.

The Winged Lion of Venice 

The Winged Lion of Venice honours the city’s Patron  Saint, Mark the Evangelist. Legend holds that  Venetian merchants stole the body of the apostle  Mark from Egypt, and on their return home, St. Mark  himself appeared to the captain and saved the merchants  from a vicious storm. In thanks for this miraculous  rescue, the city bestowed St. Mark as Venice’s  patron saint. An alternative legend tells of an angel  who appeared in one of St. Mark’s dreams, indicating  that one day, Venice would become his resting  place. Despite contentious beliefs, the emblematic  Winged Lion is a ubiquitous reminder of St. Mark’s  role as protector of Venice.

Beyond the legends ass iated with religion,  there are also other societal and political motivations  for the famous statue, according to Dr. Sarah Rolfe  Prodan, Fellow at the Centre for Renaissance and  Restoration at the University of Toronto. “The lion  came to symbolize authority and the political ascendancy  of Venice’s expanding dominion over the  Italian mainland. By the fourteenth century, Venice  had grown to be a powerful maritime republic.”

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