The Burghers of Calais

The Burghers of Calais

Auguste Rodin, French, 1840-1917

Modeled 1884-95


(currently on loan)

The Burghers of Calais, commemorating an episode during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France, is probably the best and certainly the most successful of Rodin’s public monuments. Rodin closely followed the account of the French chronicler Jean Froissart (1333 or 1337–after 1400) stating that six of the principal citizens of Calais were ordered to come out of their besieged city with head and feet bare, ropes around their necks, and the keys of the town and the caste in their hands. They were brought before the English king Edward III (1312–1377), who ordered their beheading. Rodin has portrayed them at the moment of departure from their city led by Eustache de Saint-Pierre. Their oversized feet are bare, many have ropes around their necks, and all are in various states of despair, expecting imminent death and unaware that their lives will ultimately be saved by the intercession of the English queen Philippa.

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How does working with a group help an aggressive situation?

How might it make things worse? Do you think the Burghers of Calais are heroic figures? What are some features that define a hero?

Might this be an example of when giving into another’s aggression is justified? Why or why not?

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