California Redwoods. You wouldn’t expect to find them in Belgium, but last Spring my friend and I found some!
Mariemont is a lovely arboretum with walking paths, gardens, a (the?) Royal Museum, a little no-frills café and trees from literally all over the world. From California, Argentina, Japan and China (among others), the trees make for an impressive canopy and backdrop for an afternoon of ambling.
There are ruins of Charles of Lorraine’s castle and out buildings, overgrown with vines.
But the pièce de résistance is a Rodin sculpture called Les Bourgeois de Calais. It is one of twelve bronze originals produced by Rodin — others are in Paris at the Rodin museum, in Calais, Copenhagen, London…! And this one is verdigris in the middle of a field of flowers! The piece is based on an incident during the Hundred Years War, when King Edward III of England took Calais. He threatened to kill everyone in the city unless the major businessmen — the bourgeois — would sacrifice themselves to him, offering him the keys to the city along with their lives in exchange for the citizens of Calais. The sculpture depicts five of the businessmen as they exited their safe haven and walked to their presumed doom at the hands of Edward III. I’m not sure if it’s legend or truth but no matter; the sculpture is a masterpiece.
I was overcome by emotion as I looked at the expressions on the faces of the businessmen. Rodin succeeded in revealing a range of the men’s desperate feelings and I very nearly wept with them.
The piece moved me so much that I almost did not take any photos, thinking I couldn’t do it justice. Of course, the photos don’t, but I’m awfully glad I took them so that I could share it with my readers. And so I could remember from my own lens. It moves me even now, as I go through the few photos I took. To say the piece is an emotional one greatly understates its impact.
Visit Mariemont if you make it to Belgium. Here is how you get there.