So you are telling me that your parents have decided to take you to Venice… and that they have even booked a guided tour with an official local guide…
Then you are probably thinking: “How boring!”.
It is not going to be boring at all! Trust me! Venice is waiting for you to tell you extraordinary stories!
The Lions at the Shipyard
The area of the Shipyard (called Arsenale in Italian) is incredibly full of history, art and legends.
In this place all the ships of the Venetian fleet would be built. It was some sort of a modern industry, with a real assembly line, where different specialised workers had different tasks. Up to 3000 workers, called arsenalotti, would work at once in the Shipyard! Impressive!
In the two previous pictures you can see the two entrances to the Shipyard, namely the water entrance and the one from the land.
Take a closer look: at the sides of the land entrance we can notice some marvellous lions… they come from the Greek area: they are really beautiful and extremely ancient.
Two of them, though, are quite original…
This lion probably dates back to the 4th century b.C. and comes from the Piraeus, the port of Athens, in Greece. On one of its sides we can find some inscriptions in runic characters, used in the past by Scandinavians. What is the meaning of these symbols?
This lion, instead, is even more ancient, dating back to the 7th century b.C. It comes from Delos, a Greek island. Can you see from the picture that its head is carved out of a kind of marble that is different from the marble used for the body? How come?
The Legend of the Lions at the Arsenale
A famous legend actually answers all these questions…
The legend has it that the inscription is a magical formula: the evil merchant Foscaro, centuries ago, used to say it aloud on stormy nights in order to have lightnings strike the lions and to have the beasts come to life! The lions would then attack those people with whom Foscaro had quarrelled… just imagine the horrifying scene…
One night Captain Giustinian, responsible for the security of that area, noticed the merchant giving life to the beasts. Before the lions could attack a widow hated by Foscaro, the Captain hit the merchant and the lions turned back into stone. Only one head was still moving: the Captain cut it off and the head rolled away. Later on it was substituted with another head of a different material…
What a spooky story!
I wonder, is it all fake or is there some truth to it?
What are you saying? This legend hasn’t freaked you out? Well, I will be waiting for you with my colleagues, the BestVeniceGuides, to tell you more scary stories!
You will learn a lot about the history, art and traditions of Venice and you will also have a lot of fun! And I am sure your parents will have fun, too!