In the 9th century the Republic of Venice was in the ascendant, rising in importance from the milieu that was the Italian peninsula following the collapse of the Roman Empire. However, the patron saint of the city, St Theodore, was just not first division. What an up-and-coming republic needed was a saint out of the top drawer. Options were severely limited but the Venetians played to their strengths and used their naval superiority to steal the remains of St Mark from Alexandria.
Each of the four evangelists have a particular image in Christian iconography; in the case of Mark it is a winged lion, and so the image of the winged lion, with a paw on his gospel, that was originally intended to represent St Mark has become forever linked with Venice. When we think of Venice it is easy to think of a sea power but as the Republic grew in strength they took over more territory and as you walk through cities like Verona and Vicenza the image of the Lion of St Mark is there to remind you of the city that was in charge.
Vasco da Gama called time on the glory, power and wealth that was Venice’s when he sailed around the southern tip of Africa and on to India at the end of the 16th century, thus breaking the Venetian stranglehold on the trade in spices and moving the centre of commerce irrevocably away from the Mediterranean.
But such was the accumulated wealth and power of the Republic that it was only the arrival of Napoleon that heralded the final collapse. The reminders of the huge reserves of might and riches that the Republic possessed are not easily erased and all across the hinterland, today called the Veneto, they are there to be enjoyed by those who can recognise them. No one ever tires of Venice but we have suggested four places, less well known, that you may enjoy.