Tallinn – town hall

History

   The city council of Rewel (Tallinn) already existed in the 13th century, but the existence of the town hall (consistorium) was mentioned for the first time in sources in 1322. It was the seat of municipal authorities controlling political, economic and judicial activities, at the beginning it was also a meeting place for the townspeople. The town hall was even used as a theater hall, as can be deduced from the word “teatrum” used in 1364.
  
In 1346, the king of Denmark sold northern Estonia to the Teutonic Order. Soon, as a Hanseatic city, Tallinn was granted the right to control eastern trade, with the staple right. The rapid development of trade and prosperity determined the need for expansion and a representative appearance for the town hall, which was significantly enlarged in the second half of the fourteenth and early fifteenth century. It received, among others second floor and slender tower. From 1530 it had the famous weather vane “Old Thomas”, a gilded figure depicting landsknecht holding a flag. In 1627, the blacksmith Daniel Pöppel made two gargoyles in the form of dragon heads, and a year later a new late-renaissance helmet was placed on top of the tower. In the years 1652-1652 the main entrance to the town hall was rebuilt and transferred to the central part of the building, and the main portal was closed. Subsequent reconstructions that obscured the original appearance of the building were carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries. In 1944, the town hall’s spire was destroyed during the Tallinn bombing. This gave the impulse for renovation and restoration of the original appearance of the medieval building.

Architecture

   According to the latest studies, the construction of the town hall took place in a few different stages, which is why the layout of the building is curved, narrowing by half a meter, which makes it look like a trapeze. The walls of the town hall were built of gray limestone and the roof was made of clay roof tiles. The oldest building covered the western part of the current town hall. In the first quarter of the 14th century, the existing rectangular building and cellar rooms were expanded. In the years 1371-1374 the oldest part of the town hall was extended.
  
The outer shape was finally formed in 1402-1404, as a result of the work carried out by master stonemason Ghercke. The building was enlarged to the second floor, and from the east side was erected an eight-sided, slander tower sunk into the building, originally covered with a gothic pyramid roof. The top of the northern façade was decorated with battlement equipped with arrowslits.
   The ground floor of the town hall was occupied by eight-span arcades, opening from the market square. They provided protection against snow and rain, there were also stalls in them. Behind the arcades, there were basement and storage rooms, including urban wine warehouse. The eastern part of the building was occupied by a large room supported by four pillars. Its layout is identical to the basements below. In the east, there is a smaller room with two pillars, in which a torture chamber was supposedly once functioning. In its northern part, the staircase was connected with the Council Chamber, located above. The last two ground floor rooms in the east are small rooms that housed, among others, a treasury and a stove, warming the Council Chamber with warm air. On the first floor there were representative and meeting rooms. On the eastern side they were: the hall of the town hall writer (kämmerei), a one-aisle Council Chamber, which was a meeting hall for city councilors, and a two-aisle Citizens Hall (also known as the Entrance Hall). Its groin vault is supported by two magnificent, painted octagonal pillars.

Current state

   The Tallinn Town Hall is considered one of the symbols of the city, it is also the only fully preserved, gothic building of municipal authorities in northern Europe. For this reason, in 1997 it was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. It still serves as a representative building of the city administration, there is also a museum available for tourists, concerts and important celebrations are organized.

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