A group of BFI Members and friends gathered to preview the collection that included August Rodin’s Eustache de Saint-Pierre, part of the proceeds of which will be generously donated to BFI!
Read about the history of the sculpture below, and please consider other creative ways to donate to BFI and support our work.
Background on August Rodin’s Eustache de Saint-Pierre
Early in the disastrous Hundred Years’ War, heavily armored French knights could not withstand repeated raids of the agile English army with their new technology of “clothyard” arrows shot from light bows. England’s King Edward III intended to destroy the town of Calais after France’s defeat in the Battle of Crécy (1346).
In 1347 Eustache de St. Pierre, leading merchant and Mayor of Calais, stepped forward with a rope around his neck: “Hang me, but spare my town of Calais.” Five other burghers joined him, all with ropes around their necks. Their heroism in 1347 so moved England’s Queen, Philippa of Hainault, that she persuaded her husband King Edward III to spare not only those six heroic townsmen, but their town – Calais.
After the battle of Crecy, Edward laid siege to the port of Calais, but heroism and self-sacrifice enabled the townsmen to endure under the leadership of Jean de Vienne for eleven months. Weakened by famine and disheartened by the withdrawal of promised aid from Philip VI, the town asked for terms. Their fate as told by the ancient chronicler Froissart: Edward would spare the town if six leading burghers were delivered to him bare-headed, bare-footed, with ropes about their necks, and the keys to the town and its fortress in their hands. Eustache de St. Pierre, a wealthy merchant, volunteered and five others followed his example. The English barons, moved by this heroism and devotion, attempted to dissuade Edward from his sadistic purpose. He persisted but reluctantly gave in to the Queen, “great with child.”
According to Froissard he turned them over to her and she released them, honorably clothed, banqueted, and attended, but there is a record in the Tower of London of the imprisonment of one Jean de Vienne and his companions.