Toruń – Old Town Hall

History

     In 1259, on the basis of the privilege of teutonic master Gerhard von Hirzberg, a merchant’s house holding a clothhall was erected on the market of the old town of Toruń. From 1274 comes the next privilege to build a tower and stalls and bread’s benches. In the years 1391-1399, was conducted a great expansion in the gothic style, probably under the direction of the Polish city builder, master Andrew, based on the privilege of Grand Master Konrad von Wallenrode from 1393. The old commercial buildings were demolished, leaving only a tower, and the administrative, commercial and judicial functions in one building were merged, a unique solution in Europe at thet time. The town hall was a four-winged rectangular building with an inner courtyard.
    
Mannerist reconstruction in the years 1602-1605, on the initiative of the mayor Henry Stroband consisted in raising the building by one floor. It did not erode the gothic character of the town hall, as the architect extended the gothic arches with pointed bows. Instead, it introduced new elements such as cornered overhanging turrets and gables in the middle of each wing.
   
In 1703, during the siege of the city by the Swedish army, there was a serious fire in the town hall. As a result, almost all interior decorations were destroyed, the gables collapsed, and the building until 1722 was left without a roof. In the years 1722-1737 reconstruction was performed. New gables were erected, interiors reconstructed, and from the west avant-corps was added of the late baroque forms. In 1869 it was replaced by the surviving neo-gothic one. In the 19th century, some interiors were remodeled. In the years 1957-1964 a general renovation and adaptation of the museum was carried out. The most important work was to strengthen the walls and vaults, restore the interiors of the old appearance by demolishing partition walls from the nineteenth century, and uncover some of the medieval architectural elements that were being bricked up later.

Architecture

    At the end of the 13th century the buildings of the Old Town Market consisted of two elongated, parallel buildings. From the west there was a double-storey merchant’s house, and from the east a building containing stalls and bread benches. The gable walls of the two buildings were connected by curtain walls, and the tower was adjoined to the stalls by the south. Tower was increased by two floors in 1385.
  
In 1391 the old buildings were demolished, with the exception of the tower, to create a quadrangle with an inner courtyard and a quadrangular tower at the confluence of the southern and eastern wings. The town hall has dimensions of about 44×52 meters. All its wings and courtyard had basements. Cellars under the east wing were supported by massive stone columns. In the cellars, wine was stored, but first of all wine and beer were consumed. The ground floor in the east and west wing served the rich merchants, and the poorer, stalls along the halls, accessible only from the outside. On the ground floor in the north-eastern corner was a city scale and a courtroom in the north wing. Most of the rooms on the ground floor were vaulted. The first floor became the seat of the city council and its offices. The largest room on the floor, the Great Hall of the Town was a place of important urban events, the king was taken there, and also the parliaments and the state of Prussia.

Current state

     At present, the town hall is seat of the main branch of the District Museum. On the ground floor of the eastern wing, collections of gothic and late gothic art are collected, mainly from Toruń and from Silesia. In the west wing there are collections of medieval and modern artistic crafts of Toruń, as well as stone fragments of the decoration of the Teutonic Castle. The floor serves primarily as a gallery of modern painting. The second floor is reserved for temporary exhibitions. Opening hours and other practical information can be found on the official website of the museum here.
 

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bibliography:
Gąsiorowski E., Ratusz staromiejski w Toruniu, Toruń 2004.
Website wikipedia.org, Ratusz Staromiejski w Toruniu.