The Horses of St Mark – Venice Holiday
Anyone venturing to take a Venice holiday may well pay a visit to St Mark’s Square; the main hub of this floating city. If you look up at the Basilica you will notice the four stone horses on the roof. Whilst these are replicas, the original bronze statues which are housed inside the basilica, have quite a history!
The bronze horse statues came into being in 4BC and were displayed in the Hippodrome of Constantinople until 1204. The Venetians arrived in the city in 1204 and having successfully fought the Turks, took the bronze horses as part of their prize.
The horses then travelled to Venice, however, with the addition of collars to obscure where the heads had been severed to ease their transfer to Venice. In 1254 the current Doge, Enrico Dandalo gave his permission for the horses to be placed on the terrace of St Mark’s Basilica, where they could be seen by everyone.
Unfortunately for the Venetians, in 1797 Napoleon conquered the city and had the horses removed by force and taken to Paris. The Venetians did not take this very well, and by 1815 Captain Dumaresq who had fought at the Battle of Waterloo had the horses taken down from the Arc de Triomphe, where they had been housed, and had them returned to Venice. For his efforts Captain Dumaresq was handed a gold snuff box with diamonds and his initials on the lid.
The Venetians once again proudly displayed the four bronze horses on the basilica terrace, which is where the horses remained until the early 1980’s. They were subsequently removed inside the basilica when air pollution started to damage them, however the originals can still be viewed. In recognition of their importance, stone replicas were placed on the terrace, thereby preserving the originals.
Make sure when you are next enjoying your Venice holiday to look up to see these copies, and a trip upstairs in the basilica, and you can witness the originals in all their glory.