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The burghers of Calais with ropes round their necks.

In this life-size statue of these men, Rodin dwells here on their feelings or gestures, and there on the way their shirts hang.

Instead of putting them up on a pedestal, he represents them among us, humble and level with us. After the victory at Crécy (26th of August 1346), king Edward III of England established in front of Calais a bridgehead where he set up his Court, entertaining his people with festivities while patiently besieging Calais. He thus managed to starve the inhabitants into surrendering on the 4th of August 1347.

Six local worthies, the so-called Burghers of Calais, namely Eustache de Saint-Pierre, Pierre and Jacques de Wissant, Jean d’Aire, Jean de Fiennes and Andrieux d’Ardres gave themselves up as hostages in order for the King to spare their surviving fellow-citizens. But his wife, Queen Philippa of Hainaut, eventually prevailed upon the King to pardon the brave hostages ready to be hanged.

The inhabitants were nevertheless driven out of Calais, which remained an English Town until it was taken back by François de Guise in 1558.

Rodin’s memorial was inaugurated on June 2nd. 1895 on the place where there had been ramparts, mostly pulled down after the union of Calais and St-Pierre. Some parts have been preserved on the eastern and southern sides of “Parc St Pierre”.

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