Of Sunsets and Stolen Lions

When researching Venice, we came across suggestions for different spots at which to stop and catch the sunset. Some suggested the Ponte dell’Accademia, others the rooftop terrace of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. We ended up facing the lagoon, and I have to say, if you happen to visit the Piazza San Marco, the Naval Museum, or thereabouts near time for sunset — stick around. These are some of the views the lagoon may be so kind as to gift you with.

Arsenale di Venezia

Construction for the Arsenale began in 1104. It was the largest industrial complex in Europe before the Industrial Revolution, covering an area the equivalent of 15 percent of Venice, with high walls to shelter the ships within, and guards to protect its contents. At the height of its production, the different parts necessary to build a ship could be assembled in as little as a day. This, the Porta Magna, was built in around 1460, and was based on the Arch of the Sergii, a triumphal arch in what was then Venetian territory, and is today Croatia.

The Piraeus Lion, as this statue is called, is originally from Piraeus, the harbor of Athens. It was looted in 1687 by Francesco Morosini as plunder taken in the Great Turkish War against the Ottoman Empire (he also damaged the Parthenon with cannons, so not a great guy). Today, copies are held by the Piraeus Archaeological Museum and… the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm. This is because Scandinavians defaced the lion in the 11th century, carving runic inscriptions into its shoulders and flanks.

Hard to see due to time (and lack of light), the runes are carved in the shape of a lindworm scroll. It is believed that the Vikings who carved the runes might have been Varangians, mercenaries in the service of the Byzantine Emperor, though they may have just been travelers who happened to stop in Athens at the time.

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