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Visiting Rotterdam, the Netherlands: Remembering Its Famous Son, Erasmus of Rotterdam

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Flag of The Netherlands

Flag of The Netherlands

Hendrik de Keyser's statue of Desiderius Erasmus, Rotterdam

Hendrik de Keyser's statue of Desiderius Erasmus, Rotterdam

The New Maas, in Rotterdam; the Erasmus bridge in the foreground and the Willem Bridge in the background

The New Maas, in Rotterdam; the Erasmus bridge in the foreground and the Willem Bridge in the background

Map location of Rotterdam in The Netherlands

Map location of Rotterdam in The Netherlands

Commemorating a great heritage of scholarship

In front of the St. Laurenskerk (or Grote Kerk), Rotterdam, The Netherlands, stands a statue of someone who counts as being among the most famous of its sons: Desiderius Erasmus, often known as Erasmus of Rotterdam.

The work of sculptor Hendrick de Keyser (1565-1621), the statue depicts the great Renaissance scholar at one of his most typical poses: with an open book.

Erasmus's historical and cultural heritage is enormous. From the prolific pen of Erasmus flowed book editions, commentaries, letters and satire. The early printing industry was emerging in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, and Erasmus used his deep knowledge of Greek and Latin to prepare editions of texts and manuscripts for subsequent generations. He expanded upon the methodology of Laurentius Valla when he produced — among others — editions of his Novum instrumentum , which was first printed in 1516, containing the Greek text of the New Testament, the purpose of which was to justify his emendations to the edition of Jerome's Latin Vulgate which he had prepared.

More broadly, his scholarly heritage also lies in the historical-grammatical notions of hermeneutics — interpreting what words mean in their context — owe much to Erasmus's labours and to the standards which he set.

In Rotterdam alone, such is the fame of Erasmus that a local university, the principal, white building of which is a local landmark, is named for him. So, too, is one of the bridges over the Maas River, which flows past Rotterdam.

In his youth, Erasmus left Rotterdam and travelled widely in Europe, residing in several cities and centres of scholarship. However the name Erasmus of Rotterdam is the name by which he has been very widely known.

Rotterdam, Basel, and Gouda...?

The Dutch have a saying about Erasmus, born at Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and died in Basel, Switzerland: 'Hier rees die grote zon, en ging te Bazel onder' (Here rose this great sun, and set in Basel).

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However, Rotterdam is not the only city in The Netherlands which lays claim to Erasmus. The great scholar is also cited by Gouda as a native.

Also worth seeing

In Rotterdam itself, the Euromast (distance: 3.8 kilometres) is a local landmark, which, when completed in 1960, was the tallest building in the city. Subsequently extended, its current height is 85 metres. The tower, which is an important visitor attraction, contains a restaurant and an observation platform.

The Boijmans Van Beuningen Museum (distance: 2.6 kilometres) is a noted art collection.

The City Hall (Dutch: Stadhuis ; distance: 0.7 kilometres) is a fine, monumental building dating from 1914 to 1920, designed by Henri Evers.

The Cube Houses : Canadians familiar with a similar structure in Toronto, Ontario, will readily recognize the style of the Cube Houses on Overblaak Street (distance: 2.4 kilometres by road), designed by architect Piet Blom.

Delfshaven (distance: 4.6 kilometres) has the Pilgrim Fathers' Church (Pelgrimvaderskerk ), associated with English religious dissenters. Near this building, emigrants to New England are said to have prayed before setting sail on the Speedwell , in 1620. The church dates from the 15th century, but was substantially rebuilt in 1765. It has been restored in more recent years and attracts many North American visitors.

Dordrecht (distance: 22 kilometers) this historically important city has a fine 13th to 15th century Grote Kerk ; the Union of Dordrecht, 1572 and the Synod of Dort (another name for Dordrecht) of 1618/19 were significant historical events related to the city, with relevance to the independence of The Netherlands from Spain, religious liberty and Biblical theology.

Gouda (distance: 25 kilometres), famous for its cheese, has a noted, Gothic style city hall dating from the 15th century.


How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services from Amsterdam to Rotterdam. There is car rental availability at Amsterdam airport. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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