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Barletta

The story
 
The name of Barletta is derived from Barduli, toponymn formed in its time on the basis of pre-Latin bard-, mud. The existence of the name Barletta goes back only to Roman times, but there are some traces dating back to the IV century AD which gives an indication to the existence of a previous centre, but it acquired military and economical importance only with the Normans. It became an important stop for crusaders and all the movement and traffic going towards the Holy land. On the left hand portal of the façade, of the Roman cathedral, between two high sculptures which represent the Archangel Gabriel and the announcement of the coming it is possible to still see written in Latin a headstone the name Richard, probably referring to Richard the Lion heart, who probably passed through on his way to the second Crusade.

In the 12th century it provided hospitality to the Patriarch Rodolfo, who was escaping from Jerusalem. In 1228 Frederick II, before leaving for the Crusades gathered together all the barons.
It was under the rule of the Angioini in the XIV and XV century and during this time it enjoyed a period of splendour, thanks to trade with the Orient and the building of a fleet of merchant ships. On the 4th February 1459 Ferdinand I of Aragon was crowned.

 

 

Ferdinando D’Aragona

 
Copertina di M. d’Azeglio, Ettore Fieramosca
In the first half of the 15th century, during the war between the French and the Spanish, it was the place of the celebrated “Disfida” (13th February 1503) between 13 Italian cavalrymen (serving Spain) led by Ettore Fiermosca and 13 thirteen French commanded by Captain Guy de La Motte ending with an Italian victory. The disfida was made famous by the 18th century novelist Massimo d’Azeglio. All of these is linked to the establishing of a literary park of notable tourist interest (www.disfidadibarletta.net). 
 
The city
 
Despite appearing to be according to Von Riedesel an under populated and sleepy place, Barletta today is busy and bustling city, and is a point of reference for the surrounding towns in the area of the “Patto Territoriale Nord Barese Ofantino” and will soon be made the headquarters of the Province along with Andria and Trani.
 
It distinguishes itself for its consistent agricultural and industrial produce, above all in the area of shoemaking (were it is possible to find some real bargains) and manufacturing industry, for the importance of the business centring around its port and the many cultural initiatives it promotes.
 
 
The historical centre of the city of Barletta, remains mostly intact, providing us with the same images and impressions it gave to seventeenth century travellers.
Il porto di Barletta
The "sailors quarter" with its beautiful churches, palaces and imposing monuments, preserves an excellent example of a mediaeval town, and does not appear to be contaminated by any modern buildings.
The Duomo, already mentioned for its inscription of the headstone of Richard, is one of the more illustrious examples of the romantic Pugliese style, later succeeded by gothic extensions, specifically in the apses and in the spans. The bell tower is also something to admire and also the "Altare Maggiore" covered by a prestigious veiled canopy. A recent archaeological dig has revealed several layers underground, rediscovering a tomb with dauno-roman origins. At a depth of 2,50 m, in respect to the current floor a pre existing paleochristian church has been unveiled with Byzantine origins, common in the Italian Adriatic and Balkan-Hellenic area.
  
The impressive Castle Svevo of Barletta was built by Frederick II. There was a pre-existing Norman Rocca which was later enlarged by Charles I d’Angio.
However Barletta is characterized by the so called colossal Eraclio, one of the most beautiful bronze statues of its age. The iconographical identification is uncertain (Valentianiano I or Marciano?) as are its origins. In fact it is believed to have come from the Orient, perhaps from Bisanzio, but today there are strong theories attesting that its origins lie in the city of Canosa, were there were once other such statues, but now lost.
L.Ducros. Statua di Eraclio nella piazza di Barletta
L.Ducros. Interno della locanda a Barletta
Ducros, the watercolour artist, portrayed the statue, and also left another image, albeit more familiar and of daily life of the city, a pencil drawing, watercolour in grey, and is illustrated here.
Other things to admire include the ornate portal of the church of Sant’Andrea, with its sculpture of Simon of Syracuse (XIIth century) and the Palace of the Marra with its grandiose portal superimposed on a splendid balcony, magnificent examples of the rich mixture of times and styles, from Roman to Baroque.  
 
Cultural events and traditions
 
Throughout the year in Barletta, there are a variety of different events, notably historical or cultural. The "Teatro Comunale" (local theatre, offers a wide range of events, of a high artistic quality. Also the "Bibiloteca Communale" (local library) attractively hosts in the castle a collection of books and magazines both ancient and modern, and also photos. 
 
Every year the city also offers a vast programme of events and exhibitions including music, theatre and culture. In July the people of Barletta relive the "Disfida" with an interesting and colourful pageant. Beginning with reading of the "Lettura del Cartello" and ending with the investiture of the Cavalry, it takes place at Certame Cavalleresco amongst picturesque crests, helmets, armour, saddlecloths, pomp and ceremony, it certainly is a living picture of an historical event true to what really happened.

Of great interest is the bust of Frederick II which is kept in the Museo Civico. The sculpture is said to be the work of an artist from Oltrape for the gothic spirit captured in the portrait, and for the way in which the emperor is dressed.in the same museum it is also possible to admire the collection of miniatures, Etruscan gold and antique furniture in “Cafiero Donation” made by a local noble family, paintings from the 14th, 15th and 18th centuries and finally a rich and interesting collection of Italian Ceramics.  
Also interesting are the museums of the Province, and the "Museo Civico" is one of such, where it is possible to admire the huge collection of Guiseppe de Nittis’ paintings (1846-1884), a local painter from Barletta of the second half of the 18th century, who painted in an impressionist style. He is especially well known for his exquisite and elegant portraits of Parisians, and not any less beautiful his landscapes which represent his strong love for his country ("Strada campestre lungo l’Ofanto", "Passaggio sotto il sole", "Fiume", "Contadini", "Strada da Brindisi a Barletta"). 
De Nittis, Déjeuner au jardin,  Museo Pinacoteca comunale di Barletta
Incisione di Des Prèz, in Voyage pittoresque dell'Abate di Saint Non
Also to take into consideration for its interest is the museum situated inside the Basilica of Santa Sepolcro. Behind the Colossal Eraclio, there are the arches of the church with the annexed monastery, at one time outside the walls as represented in the painting Voyage pittoresque by the Abbot of Saint Non. The building was originally Roman and rich in precious Byzantine paintings, and in possession also of a relic of Santa Croce, which was brought by Rondolfo when escaping from Jerusalem. The Canon Headquarters of Santa Sepolcro, then belonging to the order of Malta and originally of the Holy land, like the Temple Calvary in which incorporate most of the treasures of the 14th century. 

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