The Doge's Palace,
          Bridge of Sighs,
     and the Lion of St Mark
Venice, Italy
The Doge's Palace was home for the ruler of Venice, in an era
of city states when Venice was a great maritime power, based
upon trade with the east.  The palace is on St Mark's Square,
near the Basilica, which began as the Doge's private chapel.  
Lavish decorations and art are displayed throughout
the Doge's Palace.  This is a palace ceiling.
The Bridge of Sighs, above a small canal, connects the Doge's
Palace, on the left, with the Doge's prison.  The "sighs" were
uttered by prisoners being incarcerated.  How the Bridge of
Sighs came to represent romance escapes me completely.
The Lion of St Mark, which Venice took as its symbol.  
Agents of Venice first took the body of St Mark in 828 from
the place where he spread the gospel, Alexandria, Egypt.  Far
as I know St Mark never reached Venice until long after he
was dead.  With a stolen patron saint to provide prestige,
Venice named everything after St Mark and built the basilica
to house his remains.  This kind of organized crime was
typical of Venice, which used the Fourth Crusade to loot the
Christian city of Constantinople in 1204.  Venice proudly
displayed its plunder, especially four gilded bronze horses,
which remain in the basilica 800 years after being taken from
Constantinople.
The Coptic Christians of Egypt kept asking for return of their
stolen patron saint, and a modern Pope ordered Venice to
give St Mark back.  His relics apparently went to Alexandria,
but who can be certain?  Venice still treats St Mark and his
lion symbol as the city's own special property.
If you have a high speed internet connection, watch the Intrepid
Berkeley Explorer's free video that is 100% Italy,  by clicking
on  
Gondola With the Wind 2  ; also see Rome, Florence, Pisa,
and Venice by clicking on the earlier
Gondola With the Wind