The stately marble lions which have graced, and some say guarded, the bridge crossing Matanzas Bay were already in place at the east end of the bridge at its formal dedication held April 7, 1927.
A gift to the people of City of St. Augustine the sculptures were commissioned by Dr. Andrew Anderson in 1925 from the Romanelli’s Studio in Florence, Italy. Carved from Carrara marble, they were modeled after the lion statues at the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence. Dr. Anderson, who in 1886 was mayor of the City of St. Augustine, unfortunately passed away prior to the completion and installation of the lions.
In a letter dated July 7, 1924, to the St. Augustine City Commission stating his plans to beautify his native city with the lions, Dr. Anderson explained “The bridge may then be called ‘Ponce de Leon Bridge’ or if you think the name of Ponce de Leon has been sufficiently exploited, it could be called the ‘Bridge of Lions,’ or by any other designation which you think appropriate.” He closed his letter by stating “You see that I have taken it for granted that you will accept my proposal.”
Those lions are now undergoing extensive restoration by sculptor and artist Enzo Torcoletti and will once again be installed in their proper place. However, this will not be accomplished until after the temporary bridge is dismantled and both approaches to the bridge are completed by the Florida Department of Transportation. The newly restored Bridge of Lions is to be completed late this year.
At the request of the Colonial St. Augustine Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to preserving the historic colonial city, Torcoletti sculpted two detailed reproductions of the original lions to be used as bookends. The pair was then hand-cast in a durable blend of marble or bronze powder of museum quality resin. At 12 pounds each, the replica lions stand about seven inches tall and are sturdy enough to hold oversized books.
The foundation is presently restoring the historic monuments within St. Augustine’s Plaza de la Constitución and just recently completed the restoration of the 1812 Constitution Monument. Other projects which are on the foundation’s list are the 1876 Confederate Monument and the 1923 World War I Memorial.
Funds acquired from the sale of the bookends will go toward these much needed restoration projects. And since the foundation is a not-for-profit organization, a substantial part of the purchase price is tax deductible.
To see the projects of the Colonial St. Augustine Foundation visit the Web site at ColonialStAugustine.org.