Gdańsk – town hall

History

   The exact date of the foundation of the town hall of the Main Town of Gdańsk is unknown. The creation of the first, brick and one-story building can be dated to the first half of 14 century. When in 1346 the town was located under the Chełmno law, the role of the city council, dealing with the establishment of local law and the municipal jury dealing with the judiciary, was separated. The separation of functions meant that there had to be two independent rooms for these institutions. As a result, in the years 1379-1382, the first major expansion was made by the master bricklayer Heinrich Ungeradin. At that time, new premises for the municipal weight and a courtroom were built. The ceiling between the ground floor and the first floor as well as the partition walls was also removed, obtaining a large representative hall of the town council. From this reconstruction to this day, the front of the building from the side of Długa Street has been preserved. The building did not have a tower yet, which the Teutonic Knights did not allow, for they were afraid that it would be a defensive point.
   
Subsequent works from the period 1454-1457 were related to the arrival of the king of Poland, Kazimierz Jagiellończyk at Gdańsk at the beginning of the Thirteen Years War, which confirmed the previous privileges of Gdańsk. On this occasion, the attic was raised up and the front elevation was replaced. At the end of the fifteenth century, the tower was raised, topped with a sloping helmet covered with copper sheet, a third floor was added and polygonal turrets were placed in its corners.
   
In the sixteenth century, the town hall in its previous dimensions could no longer fulfill its various functions: it was held by mayors, the town council, the court, the seat of burgrave, representing the Polish king and the so-called Third Order, that is, representation of the common people in the municipal authorities of Gdańsk. Around 1537, a two-storey outbuilding was erected around the courtyard, in place of the former inn. In 1556 a dangerous fire broke out in the town hall. The removal of the effects of destruction lasted for several years and began the reconstruction of the building in the renaissance style. A new tower helmet was made, in which a set of 14 bells was installed and on the spire a gilded statue of king Zygmunt II August was placed. In the following centuries, the exterior of the town hall remained without major changes, while the interior of the building was beautified by rich townspeople. The catastrophe came in 1945: the fire consumed the tower’s helmet and wooden ceilings, and the walls suffered even from bullets and bombs. The reconstruction undertaken in 1946 is one of the outstanding achievements of Polish post-war conservation art.

Architecture

   The original town hall building was small, one-storey, with a half-timber first floor. The rooms for the justice and administration were not yet distinguished in it. There was probably a merchant’s hall, a cash register room and a weigh room on the ground floor, a council and jury chamber, an archive on the first floor, and a prison and a tavern in the cellar. One of the oldest rooms was the Mooring Fee Chamber. Originally, it housed a merchant’s room in which municipal taxes were collected.
   Around 1346, to get separate council and jury chambers, the half-timber floor was demolished, and two brick floors were erected in its place, with a council hall downstairs and jury hall upstairs. The next expansion took place in the years 1379 – 1382, when a new courtroom was added and the ceiling dividing the two previously erected floors was demolished, so that a high council  chamber was established. Around the courtyard, created after receiving the additional plot, the half-timber buildings of the so-called “town court” were situated.
  
In the second half of the fifteenth century, the tower was raised, the height of the building elements was leveled, the low second floor was added, and a decorative gothic gable from the eastern side was made. Finally, a three-storey building was obtained, while the fourth and fifth storeys were located in the attic part of the building. In the central part of the facade from Long Street (Długa), the clock tower grew to a height of 82 meters including a helmet.

Current state

   Currently, the restored town hall building houses the Historical Museum of the City of Gdańsk. Inside you can admire a lot of antique paintings and furniture that survived the war, and during the summer tourist season you can enter the observation gallery in the tower. Opening hours and ticket prices can be found on the official website of the museum here.

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bibliography:
Adamczyk-Bomersbach T., Polskie ratusze średniowieczne, “Zeszyty naukowe Politechniki Śląskiej 1997, nr 36, s.77-94.
Webpage muzeumgdansk.pl, Ratusz Głównego Miasta.