Colossus of Barletta

Colossus of Barletta

The Barletta Colossus is a large bronze statue of a Roman or Byzantine emperor located in the seaside town of Barletta, Puglia province, Italy. The statue is about 5 meters high. The question of which emperor it depicts is a matter of debate.

Description of Colossus of Barletta

The statue is located in the small port town of Barletta, 65 km northwest of Bari, next to the local Basilica of the Holy Sepulchre. The statue depicts a bearded man about 50 years old. The statue's legs below the armored skirt and pterygia are missing, the height of the preserved part is 3.55 m, the original height is estimated at 5 m.

The height of the statue's face is 46 cm. The surface is covered with shallow indentations, which may indicate knocked down gilding. These marks are missing from the folds of the garment, the rim of the tiara and the tunic, possibly because these parts were covered with copper.

Some elements of the vestment may have been covered with purple paint. The whites of the eyes were silvered, as evidenced by the remains of silver sulfide under the eyelids. The pupils were blackened, the eyelashes tinny.

The statue is assembled in sections. The attachment of the right arm is not very precise. Of the lost parts, the main ones are: part of the head above the tiara, the jewelry, the left lower edge of the hanging chlamydia, the buckle on the right shoulder, of which there are traces of fastenings.

The legs and parts of both forearms. The detailing of the rear is somewhat less detailed than the front. The neck is slightly slanted to the left, and the face is asymmetrical - it is wider and more rounded on the right.

The right hand is raised; it is not known whether it originally held a scepter, a dart or a labarum. The left arm bent at the elbow is holding a globe. The supporting leg is right, by the position of the pteryg and the line of the thigh it is clear that the left leg was elevated by 20-25 cm.

The following clothing elements are shown on the statue:

  • Two tunics - the lower one is visible on the right shoulder and left elbow, its sleeve is in a fine fold and depicts probably a linen cloth. An upper tunic is also visible on the right shoulder.
  • Leather armor with short sleeves. On the thighs and forearms folds and pterigi, fastened with braid and decorated with tassels. A gorgonian belt is fastened to the armor from below the abdomen. The breastplate has an anatomically accurate shape.
  • The belt is tied in a Hercules knot in the front, with the loose ends tucked inside twice.
  • The chlamydia is depicted made of a heavy cloth. In the front it is thrown over the left shoulder, then descends down the left forearm and then hangs freely downwards.
  • The tiara is presented as a powerful rim 15 cm wide, slightly tapered at the back. The edges of the tiara are filled with pear-shaped pearls - 50 at the bottom, 48 at the top. In the center of the forehead there is a space for a jewel, as on the opposite side of the tiara, both in the form of large quadrangles. The middle part of the diadem has 17 gemstone cavities on each side - elongated upward ovals; the front 8 are larger than the back. The frontal jewel is somewhat irregular in shape and protrudes over the upper edge of the diadem.

The hair on the head is rather long, combed into wide strands, a "potty" hairstyle. The ears are partially covered. The beard is outlined with a slightly more convex and roughly trimmed surface and separated from the rest of the face with a clear line. The mustache is outlined in the same way.

Above the eyes are bushy eyebrows, arched. The gaze is straight. The forehead is narrow, tapering upward. The jaws are abnormally heavy, and the lips are tightly compressed. Notable is a very flat face with a very massive back of the head, which is difficult to explain solely by genre stylization. The powerful neck and angular skull give the impression of enormous strength, presenting the viewer with an emperor-soldier.

History of Colossus of Barletta

The presence of the statue in Barletta has been known since 1309, when a decree was issued by Charles II of Anjou, allowing the Dominicans of Manfredonia to use the metal of the statue to build their church. Although part of the statue went to make a bell, research conducted during the restoration showed that at least the head and torso were original.

The story of the statue's appearance in the city based on an "ancient tradition" is given in the hagiography of the patron saint of Barletta, Bishop Ruggerio of Cannes, compiled in 1607 by Jesuit J. Grimaldi. According to this source, the statue, taken out of Constantinople after the capture of the Byzantine capital by the Crusaders in 1204, was carried by a Venetian ship that was shipwrecked off the coast of the city.

Presumably the ship was going to Ravenna to decorate the triumphal arch in honor of Emperor Honorius, under whom the city became the capital of the Western Roman Empire. The assumption looks plausible because at the same time the Venetians took the bronze quadriga from Constantinople and set it up in the Saint Mark's Cathedral.

Although examples of the discovery of sunken ancient sculptural works are known, studies of the statue found no trace of it in the sea. In 1431, the statue, which was in a poor condition, was restored by the sculptor Fabio Alfano, restoring her legs, left forearm and most of her right arm.

The cross, which had previously been in the right hand, had already been lost by that time[9]. In the early 16th century the statue was seen in the courtyard of the Castle of Barletta[it] by the historian Leandro Alberti.

Study of Colossus of Barletta

The main question associated with the statue is the identification of the emperor it depicts. The original version claims that it is the Byzantine emperor Heraclius I (610-641), famous for his victories in the wars with Persia and the liberation of the Holy Sepulchre during the war of 602-628.

Accordingly, from the point of view of local tradition, the location of the statue near the temple of the same name and the cross in her hand speak in favor of this version. In Italian the statue is called Eraclio or Arè in the local dialect.

In 1909 C. Gurlitt suggested that the statue belonged to the emperor Arcadius (395-409), the same year A. Haseloff[de] attributed the statue to Carolingian art. The first detailed study of the statue was done by G. Koch[de] in 1912.

According to him, it represents Valentinian I (364-375) on the basis of the description of the moral qualities of the emperor given by Ammianus Marcellinus and similarities with representations on coins. According to R. Delbrück, who studied the statue in 1933, it is a depiction of the emperor Marcian (450-457).

This researcher took into consideration the age of the emperors from Constantine the Great (306-337) when he believed the tiara had appeared, to Anastasius I (491-518) when the fashion for hairstyles changed in favor of longer ones. At the same time, however, the German researcher noted the lack of high-quality numismatic images of Marcian, coming to his conclusion by the method of exclusion and from general considerations about his life history.

In 1941 J. Kolwitz[de]. In 1954 C. Cecchelli again put forward the hypothesis about Valentinian I pointing at the similarity with the head of this emperor from the Carlsberg collection in Copenhagen and some images on coins where he holds a labrum with the same severity in his eyes.

In 1971 the version about Justinian I (527-565) was suggested by V. Picozzi (Italian, V. Picozzi), in 1973 P. Testini spoke in favour of Honorius. A. Grabar agrees with the assumption about Valentinian I. In 1980th years to connect the statue with the name of emperor Leo I (457-474) U. Peslov.