400 years Erasmus statue

Iris van den Broek

On Saturday 30 April, the bronze statue of Erasmus at the Laurenskerk will celebrate its 400th anniversary. This makes it the oldest statue in the Netherlands. Various media paid attention to it this week.

First free-standing statue in the Netherlands

The statue of Desiderius Erasmus (born 1466 in Rotterdam - died 1536 in Basel) was made by Hendrick de Keyser and unveiled on 30 April 1622. The bronze statue replaced earlier sculptures of the Rotterdam humanist made of wood and stone. The statue is special because it is the first free-standing statue in the Netherlands and the first statue in Europe that was not erected for a royal or military figure. Over the years the statue has stood at various locations in Rotterdam. Since 1963 it stands in front of the Laurenskerk. 

In the photo with Desiderius

The AD/Rotterdams Dagblad spoke with Gré Ploeg, chairperson of the Erasmus House Rotterdam Foundation: "Japanese tourists are absolutely crazy about this statue," she says. "They take a book with them and open it exactly the way Erasmus does. And that's how they take a picture with the statue''.

Erasmus: tough, yet a bridge builder

Professor of Erasmian Values Ronald van Raak talked to De Nieuws BV about the philosopher Erasmus and his legacy. He called Erasmus "the typical example of the scientist". Van Raak: "The average Rotterdammer or the average Dutchman walking past [the statue] probably thinks 'That is a scholar from the past, what do we have to do with him?'". On Friday 29 April, Van Raak will speak at a symposium in the Laurenskerk about what Erasmus still means to us today and what we can learn from him. "The great thing about Erasmus is that he shows that you can be very tough and still be a bridge builder. By doing it so honestly, openly, with humour and irony."

Original pedestal incorporated into work of art on campus

NRC this week paid attention to the pedestal on which the statue used to stand. This original plinth has been on Campus Woudestein since 2018. 
"In 2012, Erasmus University held a competition for a work of art on the campus. A design by the artist Kathrin Schlegel was chosen. Her Der Stein des Weisen was a combination of the old plinth with an enormous stainless steel text or thought cloud, as in a comic strip. Students could stand on the half-buried plinth, following Erasmus, and see their thoughts reflected in the cloud; that was more or less the idea behind the work of art."
The plinth is now part of this artwork, but with a display case around it for protection.

Meeting at the sculpture

On the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the statue of Erasmus the committee Erasmus, Icon of Rotterdam organises a gathering on Saturday 30 April: Set the clock right with Erasmus for peace.

More information

Read the full article in AD/Rotterdams Dagblad (in Dutch)
Listen to the radio interview in De nieuws BV (in Dutch). 
Here you can read the Dutch news article in NRC

Related content

Set the clock for peace with Erasmus

Come to the Grotekerkplein in Rotterdam on Saturday 30 April. That day, the statue of the famous thinker from Rotterdam has been on its pedestal for 400 years.

Official unveiling artwork ‘Der Stein des Weisen’ on campus Woudestein

The festive unveiling of 'Der Stein des Weisen' by Kathrin Schlegel will take place on Monday 3 September.

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