Venice, Italy - St. Mark’s Horses; Concord, MA - Thoreau's Walden Pond

Venice St Marks Horses.jpg


Venice, Italy - St. Mark’s Horses; Concord, MA - Thoreau's Walden Pond

Catalog Entry

Saint Mark’s Horses in Venice have a long, well-traveled history, especially for horses that are not actually living creatures. Cast of copper and various other elements, they are an outstanding example of human ingenuity (Alunno-Rossetti and Marabelli 161). The cause of their creation is unknown; however, their design is exemplary and their path throughout Europe is well-known. Their original location atop the Hippodrome in Istanbul could mean they were a tribute to their venue at the track, located in a long dismantled empire. Then they arrived in Italy at St. Mark’s Basilica, moving to the top of Arc de Triomphe in France with Napoleon Bonaparte, and finally back to St. Mark’s (Dowson). They will most likely never return to Istanbul, where they originated, as they are too fragile and they have already undergone major tests their structural integrity in Italy. The preservation of these horses has become as important as their heritage. The horses have been damaged by air pollution, salt, and sun. They have also been damaged during their many travels (Alunno-Rossetti and Marabelli 162). 

Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts, is an important part of cultural heritage in New England. Thoreau, the mid-nineteenth century author and a founder of American conservation, lived a quiet life on Walden Pond, and he documented it in his book Walden. He also wrote about his many travels in Maine, a trip to Canada, and of course about civil disobedience. He found great happiness in the simplest things and in the many journeys of life. He probably would have made a quest for the conservation of St Mark’s Horses because they have a high cultural and artistic value. He may not have been into fancy attire or factory lines; what he valued were classical traditions and classic literature, and these horses were created in classical times. Thoreau would have valued the preservation of St. Mark’s Horses as he was for maintaining the arts, and he would have been devastated by the environmental causes of their disintegration (Walden Woods Project). 

If Thoreau were to discuss St. Mark’s Horses, it would be through journeys of conquest and classical tradition in Homeric literature. Thoreau celebrated Odysseus and his many conquests and voyages, for Thoreau felt it was important for man to journey to find the best in life. The peace you discover in the world as an explorer was more powerful than any belonging you could have. Odysseus himself is similar to St. Mark’s Horses and their various travels. Perhaps Thoreau would have celebrated the journeys of St. Mark’s Horses as well, a symbol moved from place to place thriving and setting example as to just how amazing man is. Just as Thoreau’s voyages and journeys took him through Massachusetts, Maine, and even into Canada, Odysseus journeyed to find his greatest gifts and to evade a restless sedentary life. Thoreau’s epic journey, Odysseus’s epic journey, and St. Mark’s Horses are all connected with a story of travel and a wish for one last journey home.


Alunno-Rossetti, V., and M. Marabelli. “Analyses of the Patinas of a Gilded Horse of St Mark's Basilica in Venice: Corrosion Mechanisms and Conservation Problems.” Studies in Conservation, vol. 21, no. 4, 1976, pp. 161–170. JSTOR,

Dowson, Thomas. “The Horses of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.” Archaeology Travel. 2 May 2018, Accessed 2 May 2018.

“Henry David Thoreau.” The Walden Woods Project, Accessed 4 May 2018.

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden, and On the Duty of Civil Disobedience. 1995. Project Gutenberg,

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Bob Williams, Student, Fitchburg State University

Research Assistant(s)

Alex Voyiatzis, Student, Fitchburg State University


Kisha G. Tracy
Robert D. Gosselin, Alum, Fitchburg State University


“Venice, Italy - St. Mark’s Horses; Concord, MA - Thoreau's Walden Pond,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed February 23, 2024,

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