Posts tagged Venice

The Horses of St. Mark’s

Welcome to the second post on our new blog AHEtc! This time we welcome Ms. Jennifer Brown (Jaunting Jen) of the blog Jaunting Jen. Jen is an Army veteran, archaeologist, photographer, and historian working on her MA in ancient and classical history. We hope you enjoy her post as much as we do!

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Beauty Reigns Eternally

Beauty. The four horses at St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, can only be described with one word: beauty. They are called the bronze horses, but they are actually almost pure copper. If you stare at them long enough, they almost seem real. The two horses pictured above are looking at each other like they are sharing a secret, and we are left in the dark. It’s a miracle of history, time, and circumstance that these horses exist today. We are able to stand and admire their craftsmanship because of a long history of looting, theft, and historic preservation.

The history of the four horses stretches the imagination. They may have been created by a very famous sculptor, Lyssippos, in the fourth century BCE. However, recent studies suggest that the horses have a Roman origin. If the antiquity of the horses is not enough to produce a feeling of awe, then the story of how they made their way from Constantinople to Venice will surely amaze. From at least the ninth century CE, and possibly much earlier, the horses stood on top of the Hippodrome in Constantinople. In 1204 CE, Constantinople was sacked by Crusaders, and many of the treasures, including the four horses, were shipped to western Europe.

From 1204 CE, these four beautiful horses grace the terrace at St. Mark’s Basilica. In 1797 CE, Napoleon decided that he wanted horses and carried them off to Paris. They were returned to Venice a short time later in 1815 CE. There they stood on the terrace until the 1980s, when they were moved inside to save them from pollution. Today on the terrace you can view the replicas, but the real treasure is located inside. The horses stand guard just inside the entrance and look like they are in motion, prancing towards the visitors to greet them. There they will stand for future generations to admire their beauty and realism. Photography is not allowed, but I won’t tell if you won’t!

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Both images: Horse sculptures, St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice, Italy. Photos by Jennifer Brown, licensed under a Creative Commons – Attribution-Non-Commerical-ShareAlike 3.o license.

All images and videos featured in this post have been properly attributed to their respective owners. Unauthorized reproduction of text and images is prohibited. Ms. Karen Barrett-Wilt and Mr. James Blake Wiener were responsible for the editorial process. The views presented here are not necessarily those of the Ancient History Encyclopedia. Original blog post can be found at http://jauntingjen.com/2013/12/01/the-horses-of-st-mark/.