Roman statues reused in the medieval period

close up photo of a statue

On the blog, I’ve shown you examples of Roman buildings reused in the medieval period – in Rome and York for example. But Roman statues were also refashioned. Sometimes in rather peculiar ways.

Medieval statue in Venice is Roman stuff reused

During the Templar period, the patron saint of Venice wasn’t Saint Mark but Saint Theodore of Amasea. He was one of those martyrs during the Roman period. His statue was placed on top of a pillar in what is now Saint Mark’s square but the original medieval statue – now removed to a museum – was actually cobbled together from bits of Roman statuary.

This wasn’t an uncommon practice and given that the saint was high up on a pillar, nobody would have noticed the odd artistic arrangement.

Roman statue for medieval saint

I photo’d this on my trip to Venice in 2014 and found it quite amusing. The torso is clearly a Roman emperor wearing decorative military armour. The head doesn’t fit but is also Roman – possibly the ancient king Mithridates of Pontus. The legs, however, do look medieval. Somehow, the ensemble seems to work.

Venice is full of these slung together bits of Roman artwork put to the service of medieval buildings – Saint Mark’s cathedral is a right hodge podge including items stolen by the crusaders from Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade.

Medieval replicas of Roman images

The Middle Ages also saw medieval replicas of Roman statues. So, for example, the famous “Roman” statue of Romulus and Remus – founders of Rome – being suckled by a she-wolf at the Capitoline Museum is now believed to be medieval and not Roman. That said, it’s probably a copy of an earlier Roman statue.

Of course the Romans themselves were enthusiastic copiers. They made countless copies of earlier Greek works depicting philosophers and Gods.

saint theodore
A loose connection between body parts
The shield isn't even the same colour as the arm or the torso
Saint Theodore

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