The Colossus of Barletta – also known as “the Giant” – is considered the true symbol of the city of Barletta. It is a gigantic bronze statue, 4.50 m high, dating back to the 5th century. Positioned on a stone pedestal, in front of the left side of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre of Barletta, the work of Byzantine workmanship, probably represents the emperor Theodosius II and was perhaps erected by Valentinian III in Ravenna in 439. Until a few decades ago, it was thought that the Colossus of Barletta represented the Emperor Heraclius I. Recent studies, however, have highlighted the inaccuracy of this identification and have advanced a much more plausible hypothesis: it is likely to identify the bronze effigy with the Emperor of the East Theodosius II portrayed at the age of thirty-eight years old, in the height of his imperial splendour. According to the popular-historical tradition, the statue was found in 1204 on a rock in the port of Barletta, which probably ended at that point due to the shipwreck of a Venetian ship returning from a crusade. The rock on which it was found was called by the people “Mamma Arè”, that is Mamma Eraclio, as if the Colossus had been generated from that stone in the sea. In reality, the statue, probably erected in Ravenna, was transported to Puglia by order of Emperor Frederick II of Svevia, who wanted to embellish the imperial cities. The Colossus of Barletta is currently the only large bronze statue in the world to be exhibited in its original outdoor version and not housed in a museum.

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