Szczecin – Old Town Hall

History

   The Old Town Hall in Szczecin was built for the town authorities at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries, in place of a wooden building from the mid-13th century (theatrum), for which prince Barnim I gave permission to the townspeople in 1245. It was situated on the market square, in the place where two former settlements joined together: Slavic and German.
   
The economic development of the town and the rise of the townspeople’s position caused the need to reorganize the utility space of the town council in the mid-15th century, as well as raise its prestige by enriching the architectural facades of the residence. The old town hall building was than demolished and a new one was erected on the old foundations.
   
In 1570, the town hall was the venue for the Peace Congress to end the war between Sweden and Denmark. After the destructions in the years 1659 and 1677, during the invasions of the Brandenburgians it was rebuilt in the baroque style. Among other things, the arcades were bricked up, thanks to which the internal usable space was increased. The town hall also gained an additional storey, at the expense of the upper part of the ground floor shopping hall, where an additional window line was introduced.
  
It served a town hall function until 1879 and from 1937 until destruction during World War II. Paradoxically, the burnout of the interiors revealed then the medieval structure of the building. It was rebuilt in 1972-1975 for the needs of the National Museum in Szczecin.

Architecture

   The building was founded on a rectangular plan with dimensions of 14.5 x 34.6 meters as a two-storey block crowned by a gable roof. Inside, the cellars were divided into three main parts: a two-bay merchant space, which was later used as a wine bar and municipal pub, a warehouse section extended beyond the perimeter wall to the west, and prison cells under the arcades, which were connected by a circular staircase with a courtroom on level of the second floor. A two-nave ground floor room was the main merchant hall, to which the entrance led directly from the arcades. From it a timber staircase led to the next floor, where councilors were discussing in the room above the hall, and court proceedings with the lay judges were taking place over the arcades.
   
In the middle of the fifteenth century, the layout of the rooms was not changed in the basements, but it obtained a spectacular stellar vault and an additional entrance in the northern part of the eastern wall. In the ground floor from the south side, high arcades with profiled pillars were created. The main entrance to the building was placed in the west façade, although from the arcades you could still get to the shopping zone of the cellars. Within the ground floor, a two-nave main hall and a lobby with a timber staircase were created, at which the half-floor was introduced, creating two small chambers with rib vaults. The upper room, to which a portal with profiled and glazed jambs ran, is assigned the function of the municipal treasury.
   
From the fifteenth century, the elevations of the town hall were richly decorated with glazed bricks. The walls had a rich décor in the form of ogival niches with windows and blendes. The gables at the shorter sides were made of five pillars connected by an openwork frieze with traceries and rosettes. The longer side elevations were divided with two storeys of two-light blendes, arranged alternately: wider with windows and narrower with niches. In the blende arches traceries of green glazed bricks were placed. Glazed bricks were also used in the profiles of the openings frames.

Current state

   The current shape of the town hall is to a large extent the effect of the reconstruction of the medieval form, which underlies architectural research at the time the building remained in a post-war state of ruin. In the museum interiors of the town hall you can see exhibitions devoted to the history and culture of Szczecin from the earliest times, illustrated by archaeological monuments, through the times of the princes, the Swedish, Prussian and German periods, to the post-war Poland. The Town Hall is open to the public on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday from 10.00 to 18.00, and on Fridays and Sundays from 10.00 to 16.00. On Monday the museum is closed.

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bibliography:
Jarzewicz J., Architektura średniowieczna Pomorza Zachodniego, Poznań 2019.

Pilch J., Kowalski S., Leksykon zabytków Pomorza Zachodniego i ziemi lubuskiej, Warszawa 2012.
Website encyklopedia.szczecin.pl, Ratusz Staromiejski (Szczecin).