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Historical Curiosities

The Lion at the entrance of the Venice Arsenal

The Venice Arsenal is still nowadays imbued with allure and history. Once upon a time this is where the merchant and war ships that contributed to making the Venice Serenissima Republic a great power, used to be built.

 

Opposite the beautiful entrance gate of the Venice Arsenal – the first Renaissance monument in Venice – there are two guarding stone lions.

 

The left one bears some inscriptions, whose origins are linked to its thousand-year-long history. This sculpture was brought to Venice in 1684 from its original location in Piraeus, the harbor of Athens, by the famous commander Francesco Morosini (who bombarded the Parthenon).

 

The inscription of both sides of the lion remained a mystery until the 19th century, when they were deciphered by a Danish scholar who was staying in Venice. The runic inscriptions date back to the 11th century and were carved by the future King of Norway Harald III, who led a special troop of the Byzantine army during a revolt of the Greek population against the central government. They mention the conquest of the Piraeus harbor by the Norwegian king.

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