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The Colossus of Barletta

The first mention of the existence of an enormous bronze statue in Barletta dates back to 1309. Commonly known as Eraclio and in the local dialect as “Are”.

The identification of the aforementioned Byzantine Emperor, has been absolutely excluded and is more probable that it is another Emperor from the east, Theodore II.
The bronze statue depicts a man of about forty in his finest glory. It is highly possible that the statue was elevated in Ravenna.

The oldest theory is the existence of the Colossus in Barletta has its origins in the 16th century and it was written about by a Jesuit priest who wrote that it was thrown onto the beach of Barletta by a Venetian boat on its way back from Bisanzio after the plundering of 1204.

For numerous reasons this theory has also been excluded , while it is probable that it was transported to Puglia on the orders of the Svevo Emperor Frederick, in order to enrich the cultural life of the time.
The statue, had already been restored in medieval times, as shown by urban plans of the time.

The statue is 4.50 metres high swamped in late Roman and Byzantine Emperors’ clothes, made evident by the tiara with the imperial crown on it and the uniform of a military leader of high rank.
The cross in its right hand and sphere in the left are symbols of a regal empire.
The stocky legs were reconstructed in medieval times because it is certain that the originals were melted down to make two bells in the 14th century.


THE LEGEND

According to popular belief, the city was saved from attack by a group of Saracens, who infested the lands at this time thanks to the help of the “Eraclio”. Being higher than any of the roofs and walls it warned everybody of the arrival of enemy troops.
The people of Barletta refused to panic and sent the Colossus out of the city along the road used by the Saracens.

They met the Colossus crying noisily in the path, the enemy asked it why it was crying, it replied that being smaller and weaker than its fellow citizens, including the children too, no one wanted to play with it.
The Saracens imagined that they would have to confront a city with giants for inhabitants, all more than four metres tall, they immediately retreated. Covered with every honour imaginable “Eraclio” took his former place in the centre of the city, where it watches from high even today, the goings on in the city.

     


 

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