Calais (kälāˈ) [key], city (1990 pop. 78,836), Pas-de-Calais dept., N France, in Picardy, on the Straits of Dover. An industrial center with a great variety of manufactures, it has been a major commercial seaport and a communications center with England since the Middle Ages. A major cross-channel ferry and hovercraft port, it is near the site of the Channel Tunnel linking France with England. It was fortified (13th cent.) by the counts of Boulogne. In 1347, after a siege of 11 months, Calais fell to Edward III of England. A bronze monument by Rodin commemorates the famous episode of the six burghers who offered their lives to save the town; they were spared when Edward's queen, Philippa, interceded. The city remained in English hands until it was recovered (1558) by the French under François de Lorraine, the duke of Guise. It was the scene of much fighting (1940, 1944) in World War II. A Gothic church survived.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.