The Lion of Saint Mark, representing the evangelist St Mark, pictured in the form of a winged lion, is the symbol of the city of Venice and formerly of the Republic of Venice. It appears also in both merchant and military naval flags of the Italian Republic. The Lion of Saint Mark is also the symbol of the award of the Venice Film Festival, the “Golden Lion”, and of the insurance company Assicurazioni Generali. Also the open book is a symbol of the state’s sovereignty.
The lion of Venice is usually depicted with its paw on an open book that contains the text:
This is Latin, and means “Peace be upon you, O Mark, my Evangelist.” Venetian legend has it that, while visiting the region of Italy that would later become Veneto, Mark was approached by an angel, greeted with those words, and told that the Venetian lagoon would be his ultimate resting place. The actual story is most likely as described above, with the Venetians taking it upon themselves to fulfill the angel’s prophecy (which they probably wrote themselves, too).