St Mark is the patron saint of Egypt, the municipalities of Venice in Italy and Mainar in Spain, as well as of several professionals, like notaries, lawyers, secretaries, interpreters, artisans like glass-blowers and basket weavers (the latter because of the wicker baskets used for the translation of the relics), opticians, pharmacists, painters, prisoners, and last but not least, lions, of course!
The Rose is a constant symbol used during the events and celebrations dedicated to St Mark. According to a legend spread in Alexandria of Egypt, after the martyrdom of the Saint, his blood spilled on the ground giving birth to flowering red roses. Also the scent released by the relics during the translation, and spreading throughout the city, was that of roses. Finally the same scent was to be smelled in Venice during the discovery in the Basilica of the hitherto hidden relics of Saint Mark.
The Lion is another powerful symbol of St. Mark. First because the Evangelist himself began his Gospel by describing John the Baptist as a lion roaring in the desert (Mk 1:3). Then there is also the famous episode with lion, as reported by Severus ibn al-Muqaffa (or Severus of El Ashmunein, ?-987), a Coptic Orthodox Bishop of Hermopolis Magna (El Ashmunein in today Egypt), historian, and author of the "History of the Patriarchs of the Coptic Church of Alexandria". Severus tells that once Mark and his father Aristopolos were walking near the Jordan river, close by the desert, when suddenly a lion and lioness appeared to them. Aristopolos realized that it would be their end. His great love for his son made him beg Mark to run away to save himself, while he awaited his fate. But Mark assured his father that Jesus would save them and began to pray. The beasts immediately departed, and as a result of this miracle, Aristopolos marvelled and believed in Christ, accepting the Christian faith at the hands of his son Mark who baptized him.
A winged lion is the heraldic symbol of Mark the Evangelist, and also the emblem of the city of Venice, and formerly of the Republic of Venice, as St Mark is the patron saint of Venice. In Venice the symbolism of the lion of St. Mark comes from an ancient Venetian tradition, according to which, on a dark stormy night, while Mark was on his way to Alexandria of Egypt, he arrived at what would become Venice, and seeked shelter in a fisherman's hut on the island then "called Rialto". After a frugal dinner with the fishermen the saint fell asleep and in dream he saw an angel "of a winged lion form", who told him that the Venetian lagoon would be his ultimate resting place. The angel greeted him with these words: "Pax tibi Marce, Evangelista Meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum" (May Peace be with you, Mark, my evangelist. Here your body will rest). Mark woke up in the morning and told his dream to the fishermen, before setting sail again to Egypt.
The winged lion emblem was usually depicted armed with a sword and holding an open book with the phrase "Pax Tibi, Marce Evangelista Meus", and used as a sign to identify Venice and its possessions both in Italy and all over the Mediterranean Sea, so as to be placed in any city of the Republic. During the Republic of Venice, the Lion was represented practically everywhere: on the façade of buildings, as stone statues, on frescoes and paintings, on coins, banners and flags, as well as to decorate columns and standard-bearer. With the fall of the Republic the successive rulers worked to remove this symbol considered a sign of the Venetian awareness. Napoleon's edict of 1797 forbade the symbol with the maximum penalty: "Anyone crying "Viva San Marco!"... anyone hanging or spreading St Mark’s coat of arms... will be sentenced to death". This prohibition was kept, even if without death penalty, during the domination of Habsburg Empire in Venice and Veneto region.
"Leone marciano andante - Vittore Carpaccio - Google Cultural Institute" by Vittore Carpaccio - Google Art Project. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.