I was googling caryatids on behalf of my wife.  The word makes me think of the Erecthium  figures, but I soon began to come across lions.  I must say this is my favourite, from outside Verona cathederal:

It must be one of the oddest sequences of transferring loads of all time: from column base, to lion, to bas-relief crows, to more birds and Egyptians, to column shaft.  I would like to see the back end of it too, sometime.  There are more:

Right transept, Santa Maria Maggiore, in Bergamo.

with small lions conveniently placed to take the load, and a man doing what looks like dental work on the biggest lion.  Here are a couple more of these Romanesque Italian lions (because of their position in relation to the column and the step they’re known in the trade as stylobate lions):

Verona cathedral.

Left transept, porch by Giovanni da Campione, Santa Maria Maggiore, in Bergamo.

Actually Giovanni da Campione’s whole porch is pretty great, it’s like one of the mad buildings in a Giotto fresco:

And here’s the Colleoni Chapel, next door:

Here are a pair of 12th century stylobate lions in the cloister of St John Lateran in Rome:

Here they are again more recently; they’re roaring:

I read here:

The archway in the middle of the south side of these cloisters (opposite the one represented in our illustration) rests on sphinxes, one of which is bearded. The human-headed monsters, wearing the claft or nemes, images of Egyptian Pharaohs, were obviously modelled in imitation of ancient originals.

If you ask me, they were modelled in imitation of Snow White & The Seven Stylobate Dwarfs:

None of the Romanesque stylobate lions is terribly realistic, by comparison look at the twinned lions in Persepolis (sorry about the railings), performing the same duty.  These ones have quite good lions’ faces:

And they are the earliest version I can find; though of course there are earlier lions-and-columns, like the Minoan lionesses on the entablature at Mycenæ (they too are comparatavely realistically depicted):

Lions are wonderful creatures, but I’d never have chosen them for their load-bearing capacity.  Perhaps someone can point me in the right direction for  more information on this theme.