Wednesday, April 7, 2010

An Italian lion in Zion

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The "Jerusalem--The Built Heritage" sign says this corner building, completed in 1936, fuses neo-classicism with modernism and was designed by Marcello Piacentini, a renowned Italian architect of the modern monumentalist style.
It was built by the Italian Generali insurance company. Since the mid 1940s it has housed Israeli government offices and no longer has any connection with Assicurazioni Generali.
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But we still call it the Generali Building and it is a well-loved landmark on Jaffa Road, thanks largely to the sculpted winged lion on the roof.
Enlarge the photo to enjoy the lion with his book!

While reading about the Generali Building today, I was delighted to learn that the symbol of Assicurazioni Generali was derived from the flag of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, (which was dissolved by Napoleon three decades before the company was founded).
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Any Italians or Latin-scholars out there who can tell us what is written in the book?
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11 comments:

Jew Wishes said...

I like the perspective you have chosen for this wonderful architectural piece.

Rob and Mandy said...

It means Peace to you, my evangelist Mark.


The first patron saint of Venice was St.Teodoro. In 828 St.Mark the Evangelist substituted him when two merchants smuggled his mortal remains back from Alessandria (Egypt). St.Mark's remains were initially buried in a chapel in the Doge's Palace but later a church was built that was to be his perpetual resting place. The church later suffered damage from fire and was modified many times to adapt to Venice's evolution of power and wealth. This simple church evolved into St.Mark's Basilica. The modifications to the Basilica continued on through an entire century, therefore the results of the construction exhibit a mixture of different styles.
In order to justify the theft of St.Mark's body, legend states that when the Evangelist went to the lagoon, an angel came and said: "Pax tibi Marce, Evangelista meus" (Translation from Latin : peace to you, Mark my Evangelist), showing in this way that God had determined Venice as the final resting place of the Saint. The Venetians acted to fulfill the divine profecy.

Dina said...

Jew Wishes, it would look better without the barricades and fences, but Jaffa Road is still a mess with the building of the light railway.

Rob and Mandy, thanks!
Wow, the plot thickens. This story gets better and better.
Now I'll always think of this when I look up at the Generali lion.

Cloudia said...

The lion of Saint Mark; perhaps it is his gospel?

My favourite is the Lion Of Judah beloved of Rastas & Reggae.

I introduced myself in such circles as a "white jew." They seemed to like that. I was

Haile Selassie I :)

Aloha from Waikiki! Do look in tomorrow for something special


Comfort Spiral

Dimple said...

I learned several new things with this post, thanks to you and your commentators!

Chuck Pefley said...

Amazing what can be learned visiting blogs! Nice to know the history of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice via Jerusalem. Convolutions simply abound!!

Petrea said...

Thanks to Dina, Rob and Mandy I've learned a lot today! Always something great going on here.

VP said...

For something interesting about the 'Generali' try these sad stories:

Big Italian Insurer...

‘California Eight’ Sue Italy’s Generali

You can do search for some others claims.

Dina said...

Cloudia, I was indeed humming "A lion in Zion" when I chose the post title.

Dimple, Chuck, and Petrea, thanks. I love to learn by doing such posts and then to learn more from y'all's comments.

VP, thanks for the links. I really never knew anything about the Generali company. It was another surprise that "The company was founded in 1831 by Jewish merchants in Trieste, had thousands of Jewish agents throughout Europe and, even now, its current [now former?] chairman of the board is Jewish."

JM said...

A very eye-catching italian lion indeed!

Mary Ann said...

Oh my goodness! I didn't recognize it at first, but I think we have the exact same building in Beirut! I'll hunt it down and post a photo soon.