Hidden treasures

The animals in the flooring of St Mark's Basilica in Venice

Historical Curiosities

The animals in the flooring of St Mark's Basilica in Venice

When visiting St Mark's Basilica in Venice, we are inclined to turn our gaze upwards to admire the beautiful mosaics on the ceiling. In reality, we should also look downwards, because the flooring is another art work of incredible value.

It is a mosaic floor in opus sectile and opus tesselatum in marble, dating from the 12th century, but largely rebuilt during the following centuries. There are twines depicted, geometric meanders, wheels, but also animals, such as deer, dogs, doves, eagles and many others, all of symbolic significance.

Near the altar of the Virgin Nicopeia on the right side of the church, for example, you can see two roosters that are carrying a stuffed fox on a stick, an illustration of a folktale. Also on the right side there are three eagles, already a symbol of strength in the classical world, and in the Christian era also of psychopomp, that is, the one who takes the souls in paradise.

After the eagles, there are also two griffins, mythical beasts half bird and half lion, that represent pride and courage for Christians (can you recall in the Harry Potter story that Hogwarts School belongs to the house of Gryffindor?). This is followed by two peacocks that, in the Christian tradition, are a symbol of immortality as their 'thousand eyes' were considered an emblem of God's omniscience.

Finally, in front of the Chapel of St Isidore, you can see the amazing figure of a rhinoceros, according to some a sort of talisman to ward off diseases.

For children who visit St Mark's Basilica, this is definitely the aspect that interests and fascinates them more. And venetoinside.com offers 'fun child-friendly itineraries'! Stories, anecdotes and curiosities to involve children in the discovery of the treasures of Venice.

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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