Located overlooking the water in Piazza San Marco, the Colonna di San Marco e San Teodoro are two columns topped with bronze and marble statues that honor Venice’s patron saints. San Marco Evangelista is depicted as a winged lion on the Column of the Lion, while San Teodoro is seen atop the other. Together with the docks of Palazzo Ducale and the Marciana Library, they greet visitors accessing Piazza San Marco from the sea.
The Colonna di San Marco e San Teodoro were constructed by Nicolò Barattiero under the dogato of Sebastiano Ziani during the 12th century at a time when Piazza San Marco was being enlarged. These grand monuments were transported from the East, with the winged lion of San Marco an ancient bronze sculpture of either Greek or Syriac origin. San Teodoro, the Byzantine saint and warrior, is depicted slaying a dragon in marble atop the column on the other side of the Marciana Library. The bust is from a Roman emperor’s classic statue, while the head, arms and legs are of medieval origin.
During medieval and Renaissance times, the area beneath the columns was occupied by wooden shops. But since the mid-18th century, the space was used for executions and Venetians are still superstitious about not crossing the gap between the two columns.
To the east of the Colonna di San Marco e San Teodoro stands the iconic Palazzo Ducale, with Saint Mark’s Basilica on its northern edge, while to the west lie the beautiful Giardinetti Reali (or Royal Gardens).