Colossus of Eraclio

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The Colossus of Barletta, known by the inhabitants as Eraclio (in local dialect “Arè”), is a 4.50m monumental bronze statue, which dates back to the 5th century. Situated in front of the left border of the Holy Sepulcher’s Basilica. The statue is a byzantine work of art probably representing the emperor Theodosius II, which was originally erected by Valentinian II, in Ravenna in 439. Legend has it that the Colossus, forged by Polifobo, had been stolen by the Venetian forces during The Sack of Constantinople in 1204 and abandoned on the Barletta’s shore during their way back. However, the chemical analysis carried out during the latest restoration works, have refuted the legend. The most reliable theory by historians is based on an account written in 1279 by the friar Tommaso da Pavia, that reports the recovery of a colossal statue in Ravenna, between 1231-1232, during the archeological digs commissioned by Frederick II. It is possible that it was truly the emperor himself, deeply involved in his “renovatio imperii”, who decided to transfer the precious statue to Apulia. Nevertheless, the legs and arms are not original and in 1309, the Dominicans of Manfredonia, allowed by Charles I of Naples melted them in order to make bells. As the 15th century progressed, the inhabitants of Barletta commissioned the sculptor Fabio Alfano di Napoli to a statue renovation, far different from the original, that afterwards was located in its current location. During the Second World War the statue was accurately hidden to prevent Germans from melting the bronze to make cannons.


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