The people of Barletta are quite used to his mystery, and simply call him Arè – his nickname, a popular version of the name Heraclius. The bronze Colossus has been part of the Apulian town at least since the 13th century.
Indeed, the gigantic statue towers from its 4.5 meters of height on the left of the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher since 1491 – but its history before that is not well known.
Made between the 4th and 5th centuries, it arrived in Barletta from an unknown origin – perhaps from Constantinople right after the 1204 sack, perhaps from Ravenna between 1231 and 1232. The Colossus of Barletta probably represents a Roman emperor, but interpretations range: it could be Western Roman Emperor Honorius (393-423), or one of the Eastern Emperors – Valentinian I (364-375), Theodosius I (379-395), Theodosius II (408-450)… – or obviously it could be the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire Heraclius (610-641).
Only the head and bust are left of the original, the rest of the body having been removed in 1309 by the Dominicans of Manfredonia, who were allowed by Charles of Anjou to use the material to make bells for a church in Siponto.
Here is the great, quiet and mysterious friend of Barletta, Arè.