Stargard Szczeciński – town hall and gothic houses

History

   The beginnings of Stargard date back to the VIII – IX centuries, when an early medieval settlement developed south of today’s center, whose inhabitants contributed to the construction of the timber stronghold in the bend of the Ina River. In the following centuries, between the 10th and 12th centuries, an open borough was established south of the fortified stronghold. The development of the settlement was favored by the location at the intersecting trade routes: from Szczecin to central Pomerania and from Wielkopolska through Pyrzyce to the coastal towns: Wolin and Kamień. In the 12th century, the former tribal stronghold was already a proto-town settlement with boroughs and the seat of the castellan as a representative of ruler. It was also the capital of the Stargard land included in the West Pomeranian principality. The accelerated development of Stargard followed the granting of Magdeburg city rights in 1243 or 1253. At that time, a network of streets and building plots was laid out along with the delineation of the market.
   In the years 1250–1280 a brick building of the city authorities was built, the so-called Merchant’s House. In addition to serving as a meeting place for judges and councilors, it also had a commercial function. At the end of the fourteenth century, due to the expansion of the city authorities, the Merchant’s House was expanded to form of a full-fledged town hall, serving as a meeting place for the city council, and housing rooms intended for municipal celebrations, although still in the lower part constituting the role of a market hall and wine cellar. After the rebuilding, the Stargard town hall stood out among the local solutions in terms of size and uniformity of the facade’s decor.
   In 1540, the town hall was partially destroyed during a town fire. During the reconstruction of around 1569, its facades were given a late-Gothic decor, as were several other tenement houses that were rebuilt at that time. It was an ambitious architecture, remaining at the center of the latest achievements and the searches for new solutions. Unfortunately, the medieval residential buildings of the town were destroyed by another fire from 1584, caused by a lightning strike. It destroyed as many as 487 buildings, i.e. about half of the buildings inside the defensive walls. In the same year, a plague broke out, resulting in several hundred deaths, but even greater damages were caused by the siege of the town by the Swedish army, plunder and fire from 1636, after which only eighteen houses around the church of St. John survive. At the end of the Thirty Years’ War, Stargard had only 1,500 inhabitants, while in the late Middle Ages it was inhabited by about 5,000 people.
   From 1668, when Stargard became the capital of Brandenburg’s Pomerania, the construction movement revived, which main task was to replenish the destroyed buildings. New buildings, however, were already built in a different, early modern architectural style. The town hall destroyed by the fire of the town from the end of the 16th century was rebuilt in 1636, but the gable of its rear facade received an early Baroque form. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, small merchants’ stalls were added to the northern facade of the town hall, which was liquidated in the years 1868-1876. At the end of the nineteenth century, the building was regothicized, and after World War II it was rebuilt from significant damages.

Architecture

   The town was characterized by blocks layout, with a dense network of streets located in an area enclosing a rectangle of 700 x 900 meters. The residential buildings were initially mostly wooden or half-timbered, only from the fourteenth / fifteenth century began to be gradually replaced by brick one. The central point of Stargard, as usual in medieval towns, was the market square with a Merchant’s House and stalls forming the mid-market block. The Merchant’s House was located on the eastern frontage of the market, and on its northern side at the end of the 15th century the so-called Nige Burse was built (New Stock Exchange), i.e. a meeting place for merchants, both for commercial and social purposes (previously Mill Gate served this function). Smaller trade was concentrated in the town’s side streets, e.g. grain, cattle and wood and salt trade took place around the Slavic market on the island near the Mill Gate. There were numerous warehouses and granaries, and on the Ina at the Szczecin route there was a prince’s mill.
   The Stargard Town Hall was built on a rectangular plan with dimensions of 56.4 x 17 meters. Originally, in the second half of the 13th century it was a one-story building with a front facade facing south and with two staircases at both ends, leading to a large hall on the ground floor. In the interior, the room was covered with a beam ceiling supported by wooden and brick pillars, and the lighting was provided by pointed windows. This type of buildings in the form of a two-nave hall with basement and with a wooden ceiling have been erected in Western Europe since the 13th century.
   At the end of the fourteenth century, the Merchant House was thoroughly rebuilt, but within the old perimeter walls. It then became a two-story building with basement and with a usable attic, covered with a gable roof with gables from the east and west. A trade hall was left on the ground floor, while the administrative rooms were located on the first floor: the meeting room, the court meeting room, the mayor’s room, offices, municipal archives, treasury. Vertical communication was provided by two internal staircases located in the corners at the southern wall. The building also received a rich architectural decor composed of blendes and windows. The façade was turned westward towards the market square. The main entrance portal and three large ogival windows were located in the ground floor. The second storey of the façade was divided by seven narrow, segmentally closed windows, and the whole was crowned with a triangular gable with seven blendes (similar to the fourteenth-century gable of the Blessed Virgin Mary church). The eastern façade looked similar except that it was without a portal, which was replaced by a window. Longitudinal elevations in the ground floor were had ogival windows and twice wider blendes closed with segmental arches. There were similar divisions on the first floor, except that both smaller blendes and windows were closed with segmental arches. The entire building was covered with a gable roof with a double row of attic windows and a turret located in the middle of the ridge.
   During the reconstruction of 1569, the façade decor and interior layout were changed. At longer elevations, the floors were separated by a profiled cordon cornice, the window forms were changed, the older ones were bricked up, and new, segmentally closed openings were pierced in the place of former blendes. Also on the first floor new, wider windows were created, crowned with characteristic three-part curtain arches. The western façade facing the market square still had the greatest significance and decor. Its gable was divided into five horizontal zones, separated by cornices and filled with a complicated network of late Gothic tracery composed of intermingling sections of circles, trefoils and sigmoidal forms. The decor and layout of interior has changed little. A barrel vault was established in the basement, while the former columns were replaced by spiral grooved marble columns.

   The residential buildings were divided into several zones, with the most impressive and representative tenements erected around the market square. It were brick houses, with their gables facing the market square and streets, with utility courtyards at the back enclosed with outbuildings and warehouses. As the distance from the marketplace increased, burgher buildings were becoming poorer, usually one-story and built of wood or half-timbered. In the 15th century, there were over 900 building plots in Stargard, inhabited by around 5,000 people. In addition, three suburbs functioned in front of the city gates, and next to them on the right bank of Ina, on the southern side of the town, there was a Slavic settlement (Wik and Kępa) inhabited by people displaced from the town. The suburbs had loose, almost only timber buildings, the majority of chapels, hospitals and shelters there were also wooden, only the buildings of the Slavic settlement were more compact, ridge-shaped.
   An example of a residential building was the so-called Protzen’s House, erected in the first half of the 15th century as a typical, late Gothic house of a wealthy merchant family. Houses of this type originally housed a hall on the high ground floor, i.e. a place of commercial transactions or a workshop, an office room, and in the further, deeper part of the ground floor a kitchen and owner’s living rooms. Higher were three or four granary floors, serving as a warehouse for goods. The facade of the Protzen House was built in late Gothic style. An ogival portal was built in the ground floor, equipped with two circular blendes on the sides. Windows were made on its sides, currently with full arches, perhaps pointed at first. A row of windows on the first floor was created in the early modern period, originally there were small openings illuminating the warehouse. The gable of the house was separated from the ground floor with a cornice. Twin ogival blendes topped with circular blendes were placed in the fields between the profiled pilaster strips. In slender ogival blendes, four levels of full-arched windows separated by straight cornices were erected.

show town hall on map

show Protzen’s House on map

show Rohleder’s House on map

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bibliography:
Jarzewicz J., Architektura średniowieczna Pomorza Zachodniego, Poznań 2019.
Kalita-Skwirzyńska K., Stargard Szczeciński, Warszawa 1983.
Pilch J., Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków Pomorza Zachodniego i ziemi lubuskiej, Warszawa 2012

Website tps-stargard.pl, Kamienica mieszczańska w Stargardzie XIV – XVIII wieku.