Though few countries still have wild populations of lions, these majestic creatures known for their long manes and stately demeanour are international symbols of strength, bravery and pride. Countless lion statues are found throughout the world, and serve as symbolic guardians and protectors of palaces and parks alike. Many of these statues have become famous landmarks and play a prominent role in local history and lore.
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New York Public Library Lions
Located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in the borough of Manhattan, the two lion statues outside the New York Public Library have stood guard since 1911. The lions were carved by Italian-American immigrants, the Piccirilli Brothers, from pink Tennessee marble and though they have incurred many nicknames over the years, the lions have been referred to as Patience and Fortitude since the 1930s. During Christmas and spring, the lions have even been festooned with decorations.
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Trafalgar Square Lions
Four bronze lion statues grace Trafalgar Square, in the heart of London, in the United Kingdom. The square is surrounded by museums and famous buildings, and was named in memory of a naval battle against Napoleon in 1805, though the lions came later. Created by painter and sculpter Sir Edwin Landseer, the lions have been guarding the square since 1868 and, according to The Telegraph, legend states the lions will come to life if the bell in Parliament's Big Ben chimes 13 times.
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Lion Monument in Lucerne
The weeping lion statues of Lucerne honour Swiss soldiers who died in the line of duty. In 1792, during the French Revolution, angry peasants stormed the royal palace in Paris, the home of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI. Over 700 Swiss guards who had been assigned the duty of protecting the palace were killed in the melee, and this monument recognises their sacrifice. This statue, depicting the lion weeping over a shield, rests in a sandstone cliff near the centre of the city and was dedicated in 1821.
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Winged Lion of Venice
The Italian city of Venice is home to many lion statues--the majestic jungle cat is one of its oldest symbols. The city adopted the mascot when the remains of St. Mark, the disciple always depicted by this creature, were brought back from Egypt. One of the city's most iconic sites is of a winged lion atop a pillar, located in the Piazzetta. This bronze statue was stolen by Napoleonic troops in 1797, but was returned to the city in 1815.