Horses of Saint Mark

Venice, Italy

Horses of Saint Mark

The Horses of Saint Mark (Italian: Cavalli di San Marco), also known as the Triumphal Quadriga, is a set of Byzantine bronze statues of four horses, originally part of a monument depicting a quadriga (a four-horse carriage used for chariot racing). The horses were placed on the facade, on the loggia above the porch, of St Mark's Basilica in Venice, northern Italy after the sack of Constantinople in 1204. They remained there until looted by Napoleon in 1797 but were returned in 1815. The sculptures have been removed from the facade and placed in the interior of St Mark's for conservation purposes, with replicas in their position on the loggia.

The sculptures date from classical antiquity and have been implausibly attributed to the 4th century BC Greek sculptor Lysippos. A date in the 2nd or 3rd century AD is considered far more likely; the famous Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius in Rome (c. 175 AD) provides a point of comparison. However, some scholars do claim the naturalistic rendering of the animals and technical expertise in execution point to a Classical Greek origin. They were probably created to top a triumphal arch or some other grand building, perhaps commissioned by the Emperor Septimus Severus. They may originally have been made for the Eastern capital of Constantinople, and certainly reached there later.



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