The earliest parts of this statue have various dates and places, and scholarship has attributed various aspects of the statue to a variety of places. However, studies in the 1980s concluded that the piece was created between the end of the 4th and the beginning of the 3rd centuries BC. The original bronze figure was likely very different from the lion that we see today, and pre-dated Christianity. Thus, there is no evidence to suggest that it had any connection to Saint Mark.
The Lion of Venice was taken to France after Napoleon’s conquest of the Venetian Republic. The statue had suffered damage during Napoleon’s campaign in Italy. It was missing its wings, paws, tail, and Gospel-book. French sculptors worked on the statue to restore it and install it on the Fountain of Invalides. The fountain was completed in 1804.
The Lion’s history is a complicated one. It is thought that it first appeared as a winged lion-griffin statue on the monument to the god Sandon in Cilicia, about 300 BC. The lion also represents Saint Mark, the evangelist, and is a representation of his patronage. But before Saint Mark, another figure of a lion was also a patron of the city: St. Theodore of Amasea. He is a hero of the city and holds a spear and stands on a crocodile. The original sculpture of the lion is preserved in St. Theodore’s Palace in Amasea.