Big and small, with or without wings, in the round or in relief, lions can be seen all over the city. A later writer on Venice, Jan Morris, counted seventy-five lions on the Porta della Carta, alone.
As Peter Ackroyd observes in Lion City, 'In earliest times la Serenissima, the city of the Virgin, had been given a masculine identity by its citizens. It was the Lion City.'
The winged lion (Leone Alato) is, after all, the attribute of Saint Mark the Evangelist, the patron saint of Venice. In Venice the winged lion was transformed into the Leone Marciano by the addition of a book, which, more often than not, is open to reveal the words PAX TIBI MARCE EVANGELISTA MEUS (Peace be with you Mark, my Evangelist).
The origin of the phrase derives from a legend in which Saint Mark was shipwrecked in the Venetian lagoon. A winged angel appeared to him and declared 'Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum.' The second sentence (which never finds its way onto the lion's page) is the most significant, 'Here your body will rest'. And in 828 the angel's prophesy was fulfilled when two Venetian merchants stole the saint's body from a church in Alexandria.
The Leone Marciano sometimes sports an aureole on its head, as we can see in this wonderful image:
The Lion of Saint Mark could be depicted andante, in other words from the side, as we see in the above two images, and in moleca, in which it was portrayed from the front (see below).