The grey granite COLUMN OF ST. MARK stands in one of most magical places in Venice, overlooking the lagoon at the edge of the Piazzetta San Marco adjoining St. Mark’s Square; it is one of the great symbols of Venice, emblematic of the approach to the city from the sea. With the adjacent Column of St. Theodore in red granite, it was brought to Venice from the East (though their exact origins are unknown) around the XII century.
For a long time they lay flat on the wharf waiting for a system for erecting them to be devised. This was eventually provided by a builder from Lombardy, a certain Nicolò Barattieri.
The history of the lion that surmounts the Column of St. Mark remains shrouded in mystery, with no scholarly agreement about where it came from or when it arrived in Venice.
One theory is that the lion had Assyrian origins and was in Constantinople at the time of the Fourth Crusade, from where it was brought to Venice by Enrico Dandolo. It is thought to have started life as a chimera and that the wings were added later.
Over the centuries, the lion has suffered not only the effects of exposure to all weathers but also from numerous removals and restorations as well as its expatriation to Paris, where it was dropped and broken.
Returned to Venice in pieces in 1815 it was restored and replaced on its column in the following year. There it remained until 1940, when it was once again moved to protect it from possible bomb damage, and stored in the Doge’s Palace until the end of the war.
The restoration of the column was carried out in 1985 by the Superintendency for the Environmental and Architectural Heritage of Venice in collaboration with the Swiss Pro Venezia Foundation.