Hidden treasures

The symbolism of the bas-relief in the entrance of the Carmini church in Venice

Historical Curiosities
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The symbolism of the bas-relief in the entrance of the Carmini church in Venice

The Carmini church in the Dorsoduro district in Venice has a very interesting entrance. It boasts circular decorative elements with animals in a relief.

In Venice there are more than 1000 bas-reliefs like these, mainly created between the 11th and 13th centuries. Often they were reused and can also be found on buildings of the 1900s!

There are five Greek marble bas-reliefs on the Carmini church, whic represent, from top to bottom and from left to right: an eagle pecking a rabbit, a griffin pecking the back legs of a hare, another eagle pecking the head of a hare, a pelican with a fish in its beak and finally an eagle that catches a rabbit.

The symbolism of these representations is connected to the Christian religion and although it may seem very complicated to us, for the medieval man it was easy to read, as he lived immersed in a world of symbols.

The eagle, being able to look directly at the sun, symbolizes the spiritual uplifting, while the rabbit (or hare) represents the physical needs, so this would be a battle of good against evil. The Griffin, a mythological animal half eagle and half lion, is a symbol in the Middle Ages of courage and purity. The pelican was seen as a symbol of Jesus on the cross who had sacrificed himself for humanity, because in ancient times it was believed that this bird was striking its breast to feed its young; even the fish symbolizes Christ as the early Christians, forced to live in hiding their religion, used the Greek word ICTUS (fish), which was the acronym for Iesous Cristos Theou Uios Soter (Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour) .

Francesca, a brilliant Venetian tour guide who takes care of these columns, is an endless source of curiosity on Venice and its monuments. If you are interested in visiting the city in her company, to discover the lesser known places or curious anecdotes about its most famous monuments, please fill in the following form: we will reply to you as soon as possible, after checking the availability of Francesca for your requested date!

By Insidecom Editorial Staff

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