Tourists and locals enjoy annual re-enactment

'La Disfida di Barletta'.

'La Disfida di Barletta'.

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On February 13, 1503, something took place in Barletta which still has resonance today; ‘La Disfida di Barletta’ (Challenge of Barletta) was a jousting match between thirteen Italian and thirteen French knights.

At that time there was a clash of interests between the invading Spanish and French over acquired lands; Barletta itself was rich and powerful with a flourishing maritime trade.

In a final moment of chivalry, when La Motte fell from his horse, Fieramosca got down to his level to continue the fight. La Motte surrendered and the Italians won the challenge.

Following the ‘Treaty of Granada’, southern Italy was divided between the two invaders and the Spanish chose Barletta as their headquarters to administer the Kingdom of Naples’ estates and command their armies.

Spanish leader Diego de Mendoza accompanied some French prisoners there, including Charles de Tongue (also known as La Motte).

According to the rules of chivalry, their fate should be decided by a challenge, so a dinner was organized by Consalvo of Cordova for the French, Spanish and Italian knights, in a Barlettan cellar known even today as ‘La Disfida di Barletta’.

The Spanish knights successfully aimed to upset the French by openly praising the Italians; a furious ‘La Motte’ retaliated by describing them as cowardly. This insult led Italian Ettore Fieramosca to take up the challenge to fight the French knights.

Following correspondence between Fieramosca and La Motte, the challenge itself was set up; the ensuing battle took place on February 13, 1503, on land between Andria and Corato, under Venetian rule at the time.

Beforehand, all the knights attended mass - the French at the church of San Rocco; the Italians at the cathedral of Andria. The horses wore protective leather and showed the knights’ coats of arms on their capes whilst the knights wore protective armour.

In a final moment of chivalry, when La Motte fell from his horse, Fieramosca got down to his level to continue the fight. La Motte surrendered and the Italians won the challenge.

The French were taken prisoner and publicly humiliated in a procession through the Barlettan streets whilst the Italian knights were awarded for their chivalry and ‘the honour brought to the city’. Every year this historic event is re-enacted and enjoyed by tourists and locals alike.