Unveiling the Hidden History Behind Venice’s Iconic Lion and the Venetian Carnival

Venice, a city woven with history and mystery, holds a symbol at its heart that tells a story few are aware of. The majestic lion standing proudly atop a column in St. Mark’s Square, a symbol synonymous with Venice for centuries, has an origin deeply rooted in the history of the last Armenian kingdom, Cilicia. This revelation connects two cultures in a way that has been largely forgotten over time.

The Armenian Connection: The Lion of Cilicia

The lion, now an emblem of Venice’s strength and pride, was originally a symbol of the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia. This ancient and once-powerful kingdom, thriving in the region of modern-day Turkey and the Middle East, met its demise, leading to a significant moment in history. In a symbolic gesture, the remnants of Cilicia’s royalty, including the lion, were handed over to Venice after the kingdom’s destruction.

From a Ceremonial Exchange to the Birth of the Venetian Carnival

This exchange was not a mere diplomatic gesture but a grand event marked by ceremony and spectacle. The Duke of Venice, accompanied by a large procession of boats, sailed out to meet the Armenian delegates in a grand naval parade. This ceremony, rich in symbolism and grandeur, laid the foundations for what would become the world-famous Venetian Carnival. However, the true motive behind this vibrant celebration has long been forgotten, both in Venice and Armenia.

The Legacy and Traditions

Today, the Venetian Carnival is celebrated with masks, elaborate costumes, and a riot of colors, but its origins trace back to this historical exchange. Two enduring traditions of the carnival – the Duke’s ritualistic sail into the open sea and the symbolic act of throwing a gold ring into the sea – are remnants of this forgotten history. These acts were initially intended to commemorate the exchange of the Armenian crown and symbols for the lion of Cilicia.

The Forgotten Connection: A Tale of Two Cultures

The story of the Venetian lion and the carnival’s origins is a poignant reminder of the intertwined fates of Venice and the Armenian kingdom of Cilicia. Over time, the true significance of these events has faded, leaving behind only fragments of rituals whose meanings are lost to history. Yet, they stand as a testament to a time when the destinies of two distinct cultures were unexpectedly linked.

Conclusion: Revisiting History

As we wander through the alleys of Venice or partake in the vibrant festivities of the Venetian Carnival, it’s worth remembering the forgotten tale of the Armenian kingdom and how its last symbols became an integral part of Venice’s identity. This story, bridging two worlds and eras, is a testament to the enduring nature of cultural exchanges and the mysterious ways in which history unfolds.

Based on status of Tigran Avakian

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