All Creatures Great and Small

Patera, Basilica San Marco, Venice
Although the lion reigns supreme in Venice, the city is home to a wide variety of other creatures, both real and imaginary. In her book A Venetian Bestiary Jan Morris identifies over seventy animals and birds, from camels and crocodiles to tigers and tortoises. 


Many of the, often curious, creatures are depicted in the numerous circular bas-reliefs, known as paterae, which are embedded into the walls of buildings throughout Venice. The majority of the reliefs are Byzantine in origin and date back to between the 11th and 13th centuries. 

One of my favourite paterae (see above) is to be found on the north side of the Basilica San Marco.