Desiderius Erasmus has moved around Rotterdam on numerous occasions. From being buried in the gardens of the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum during the Second World War, passing through the Coolsingel for its re-erection, the statue finally made it to Grotekerkplein by the Laurence Church in 1964, where it stands to this day.

However, Steen found an interesting revelation while she collected archival material for her doctoral thesis. Back when Erasmus University Rotterdam was called the Nederlandse Economische Hogeschool (Netherlands School of Economics) in 1965, the university had plans to move the statue to the then emerging Woudestein Campus.

What is your research about?

“I study how Erasmus has been appropriated and imagined by the city of Rotterdam after his death until now. Part of that has to do with the Erasmus statue, which will have its 400th birthday this Saturday. But also, Erasmus University, which of course, bears the name of Erasmus.”

Why did they want to bring the statue to campus?

“I will quote the archive piece that I found: ‘Rector and assessors believe that such a placement would be appropriate because it also draws attention from the outside world to the link between current and historical scientific life in Rotterdam.’ This means that apparently there was a much earlier interest in Erasmus from the then hogeschool.”

Why did it not happen?

“The answer of the municipality was that they did not see a relation between the hogeschool and Erasmus. It was also because of tourism purposes. It’s attractive to have the statue in the center of Rotterdam.”

Do you think Erasmus University will pursue further efforts to bring the statue to campus?

“With the original pedestal, as part of the Der Stein des Weisen ensemble in the North Park by the Tennis Court, the outdoor copy of the seventeenth-century statue, and the Desiderius Multiplex statue, I think we have quite a nice visual representation of Erasmus on campus. I think we should be happy with that.”

Why is it important to study Erasmus?

“Erasmus is a historical figure that lends itself to interpret our present society . I often hear ‘what would Erasmus have thought about this’, ‘what would Erasmus have said if he were alive now?’, for example regarding the war in Ukraine. Erasmus is a very interesting figure to research because he has been studied and engaged with throughout history. You can see how society has changed based on how they understood Erasmus and what they have and have not valued in him.

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