A winged lion and a man on a crocodile stand guard on top of columns at the edge of the canal in the Piazetta di San Marco in Venice.
The Lion of Venice is an ancient bronze winged lion which came to symbolise Venice after its arrival in Venice in the 12th century. It has a long and interesting history. It is a composite of different pieces of bronze created at different times. Some of the oldest parts probably date from the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd centuries BC. The statue took its present form sometime in the Medieval period.
Napoleon pinched it and took it to France while on his 1797 campaign in Italy. It was damaged at this time and was restored by French sculptors. It was dropped and badly damaged when it was returned to Venice and was stored at the Arsenal before it was restored by Bartolomeo Ferrari and returned to its column in 1816. His tail was altered and now sticks out behind him; it was previously tucked between his hind legs. The book under his paws was recast.
The winged lion also symbolises St Mark, one of Venice’s patron saints. There are many winged lions all over Venice.
The man with the crocodile standing on the western column represents St Theodore of Amasea, patron of the city before St Mark. He is holding a spear and stands on a crocodile which represents the dragon he is said to have slain. It is also made up of parts of ancient statues. It is a copy, the original is kept in the Doge’s Palace.
I have not seen the man with the crocodile anywhere else but on the column in the piazetta.
The best view of the sculptures is from the terrace of the Basilica of San Marco. It is worth paying the small fee to see the museum and the view from the terrace.