Year of the Horse…

inside St.Mark's Basilica, Venice

inside St.Mark’s Basilica, Venice

bronze horses at St.Mark's Basilica, Venice

bronze horses at St.Mark’s Basilica, Venice

Apart from the fact that I love Chinese food, their New Year has always fascinated me. Today is the first day of their Year of the Horse.
The Chinese zodiac is an interesting way of living your life according to ancient beliefs and customs and can be a fun way of comparing how our different cultures interpret fate and how it affects us all. The Chinese zodiac originated as the telling of the Great Race, where twelve different animals representing people and their attributes had to fight their way across a river to see who was the winner. As good a way as any to establish some kind of pecking order I suppose.
The horse, although a fast runner was not so good in the water and only managed to come seventh, so if you were born in the year of the horse everyone would know not to make you swim! Seriously, some of these beliefs are so old they defy logic, but more often than not they do make sense.
For instance I was born in the year of the monkey, making me (apparently) a crafty, clever kind of person who is always thinking and scheming, and I quite like that! I would have preferred to have been born in the year of the dragon. Those people are ambitious and romantic, intellectual and energetic. Usually leaders who strive for perfection… see what I mean?

I still haven’t managed to shake of the flu, and most days I feel pretty dreadful. Had a hell of a week too, which hasn’t helped one bit! What with the flooding (some of our walls are still soaking wet and the paper is bubbling and coming off) we have had workmen installing a new sink and cupboards in our kitchen. So for two days I couldn’t even get in there!
None of which was helping my creative flow in the slightest, so I consoled myself by finishing Dan Brown’s book ‘Inferno’. I have thoroughly enjoyed this book for several reasons. Firstly, he is a brilliant writer, his stories are full of wonderful places and puzzles (and I do love a riddle). Secondly, I have always wanted to visit Italy and thanks to Dan I feel I just have.
One of the places that caught my imagination was in Venice, St. Mark’s Basilica, the world famous Byzantine cathedral. To give it it’s popular title, Chiesa D’oro or Church of Gold. It is a fascinating building with a three part facade with ornate theological carvings. Everything you look at seems to be made of gold. All of the ceilings are covered in golden mosaics, most of which took seven centuries to complete and is the reason the basilica contains so many different themes. It is said that the air inside the basilica is so full of gold dust, that when you breathe you are taking minute specks of gold into your lungs, literally making you a better person, metaphorically and literally.

What really grabbed my attention were the horses. I am passionate about horses; any horses so when I started to read about the four huge statues of the bronze horses that were once above the main door of the basilica, it suddenly made a connection in my head with the Chinese New Year.
These horses originally came from Constantinople in 1204 and were probably Roman. Napoleon fell in love with them and promptly stole them. These horses have made it into the history books as the most stolen pieces of art. A rumour has it that one of these thieves had trouble hiding them in a crate so he cut their heads off. When they returned yet again, their heads had to be reattached, hence the strange collars they are all wearing.
The horses that you see above the door nowadays are replicas; the original horses are now inside the basilica for their protection. From who, the weather or any future thieves?
As I get older I am reminded of all the other lovely places I will never get to see. Reading about them is wonderful though and the next best thing… but I must stop reading for a while and write. As they say… this will not get the baby a new bonnet!
See you all next week….
Jay

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