The Burghers of Calais


So over the last couple weeks I have told the story of Calais to a whole bunch of middle school students for one reason or another. Today, I get to bestow that honor upon all of our EG readers.

The city of Calais was a important French port on the English Channel during The Hundred Years War. The city itself was under siege of the English for over a year during this extraordinary war. That gives you some type of clue as to how important that port was.

The city was under orders by their king, Philip VI of France to hold the city at all costs. They did so for quite an extended period of time, but eventually starvation forced the city to surrender. There are more than one report of the cities desperation reaching so deep that they begin to eat rats and mice to survive.

The English King Edward the III agreed to spare the citizen of the great French port, but only if the wealthiest members of the city agreed to surrender themselves on behalf of the citizens of Calais. The assumption, by all, was that they would be executed. The six men, led by Eustache de Saint Pierre, all approached the gates of the city for surrender while wearing paupers robes, wearing nooses around their necks, and carrying the keys of the City of Calais.

England's Queen, Philippa of Hainault, persuaded her husband to spare the lives of the men in honor of their unborn child. She believed that killing the men so willing to sacrifice themselves for their city would be a terrible omen for the life of their unborn child. Their son, Thomas, only lived until he was roughly a year old.

Public Domain: Auguste Rodin; Burghers of Calais

Auguste Rodin was commissioned to complete a life size work in honor of The Burghers in 1884. The work was completed, installed, and unveiled in 1889. Quite quick work for a piece of this size. There are twelve life size casts of The Burghers around the world, but we have a "table-top" cast in the Gallery I work for. 



Above you see an image of The Burghers of Calais cast that is located on the grounds of Stanford University. I wanted to include this image because it is clear to see the Burgher believed to be Saint Pierre. He is the individual located on the far right of the image holding the keys to the city; fondly known as "The Man with they Key." This is the cast that we have at the Gallery. Needless to say, I have been getting pretty familiar with this fella over the past few weeks.

I hope you guys enjoyed this little bit of Art & History to kick off your week. I will see you again on Friday for a #5FandomFriday from the archive. Until then, and as always, stay exceptionally chic & exquisitely geek! 


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