Venice – the little things

This post was needed for all the photos I took of the small decorative details that caught my eye while wandering around Venice.

The Lion of Saint Mark appears quite a lot as you’d expect.


As well as various coats of arms.

Many Venetian buildings are studded with small (20-80cm), usually circular but some times rectangular, bas-reliefs known as Peterae.

A patera would usually depict animals, but they can also be of people, and have the apotropaic purpose of warding off evil spirits.

A similar function was played by the Mascaron, a stone head often found protecting the keystones of doorways or bridges.

Some of them are quite bizzarre. The first of these two, which can be seen above the front door of the campanile of the Church of Santa Maria Formosa in Castello, drew quite a negative opinion from John Ruskin who had a lot to say about Venetian architecture.

Angels are often seen protecting doors and walls as well.

This building seems to have a little of everything, Mascarini at the bottom, an Edicola of some kind, and carved Mensole (in English, Corbels: decorative weight-supporting brackets) holding up the windowsills either side.

The decorative surface above a door (delimited by the arch and the lintel) is known as the tympanum.

When it’s a half-moon shape, it can also be called a Lunette.

In common with many Italian cities (Genoa and Naples especially come to mind) there are small shrines known as Edicoli on the walls of buildings and on the corners of streets everywhere you go. The majority are dedicated to Mary…

…although other religious scenes sometimes feature.

Saint George slaying the dragon is a popular theme.

There were some interesting knockers on the doors around Piazza di San Marco.

And there are a few of these strange rusting dragons under the porticos on the northern side of the square.

Old wrought iron seemed to be quite rare. This sign near the Goog is quite modern I think.

And that’s my final post on Venice. An index and my top tips next!

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