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Winged Lions

Updated on November 22, 2016

This article will outline the main symbolic meanings of a winged lion, including:

  • Mark the Evangelist
  • The city of Venice
  • In Alchemy
  • As an incarnation of Vishnu
  • The ancient Egyptian Shedu
  • And as a Decorative Whimsy

Mark the Evangelist

The four Evangelists are represented by the human, lion, ox and eagle (all depicted with wings). So this form of the winged lion is called The Lion of Saint Mark.

The Gospel of Mark begins with John the Baptist calling out in the desert which is equated with the roaring of a lion, This is then equated with the Prophet Ezekiel's vision of four winged creatures represent the four evangelists (Ezekiel 1:10).



The winged lions is a symbol of Venice as it is representative of Mark the Evangelist who is the patron saint of the city. It is often shown with a book inscribed words that were said to come to Mark in a vision: “Pax tibi Marce, evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum.” (Peace to thee, Mark, my evangelist. Here your body shall rest). And the remains of Mark were indeed moved to a tomb in Venice in the 9th century to fulfill the prophecy.

This lion is also used as a symbol of manufacturers and events based in Venice such as the Venice Film Festival.


In alchemy the while lioness represents white sulfur. The winged lion represents the manner in which a substance can be volatile.

Bali Winged Lion

Vishnu is sometimes shown in the form of a winged lion. And in Bali a statue of a winged lion is placed in the roof of a house to protect the inhabitants.


In ancient Egyptian mythology a winged lion with a man's head was seen as a protective deity. the make form was called Shedu and the female Lamassu.

Photo credit: / CC BY-SA


Some used of winged lions are probably purely fanciful or decorative, without symbolic meaning. The are particularly popular as garden decorations and external decorations for buildings.

These include even more whimsical combination such as a winged lion with the tail of a fish.

Winged lions appear in many examples of modern art such as:


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    • EsmeSanBona profile image


      5 years ago from Macon

      Loved this article! I have a special affinity for winged lions. Voted up!

    • LetitiaFT profile image


      6 years ago from Paris via California

      Beautiful and voted such!


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