Wrocław – town hall

History

   Wrocław initially had no special building for a five-person town council and an eleven-person court, which, unlike the hereditary vogt, had limited competences. It may be that the council initially gathered in one of the rented townhouses. The oldest part of the town hall was founded, as it was written from the sources, until 1299, when it was paid to the builders Martinus and Albericus, and a one-off payment for the building to the clothers was made. This oldest part of the building, then referred to as a consistorium, had also a trade functions in addition to the congregations.
  
In 1326 the town bought beck its inheritance and duties from hereditary descendants. Increased competence and prestige resulted in the need to build a new seat for the council. Already in the years 1328-1333 in the neighborhood of the consistorium built the second, smaller building of Council and Court. A group of this building has since become the town hall, and the whole was called praetorium or novus domus. In the years 1343-1357 a new court building was built, adjoining from the south to the council building and from the east to the consistory. In 1345 the nishop of Wrocław, Przecław from Pogorzela gave permission for the chapel.
  
At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the power in the town hall was taken by force twice: in 1406 the patricians attacked the town hall, and in 1418 it was occupied by the plebeians who cut down the mayor and the five laymen. From the 70s of the 15th century to 1504 in the few construction phases, the town hall was enlarged from the south, increasing its area and giving a more representative character. In 1559 the town hall towers were raised and covered with a renaissance helmet, and in 1615 the southern part of the ground floor was divided into several smaller rooms.
  
Since 1808 the interior of the town hall has been gradually degraded. The obsolete facility did not meet the requirements of the modern administration and soon the councilors moved to the newly built city hall. They also destroyed representative façades of the building. It was only in the late nineteenth century that the first maintenance work was carried out, continuing in the 30s of the twentieth century, among other the surrounding commercial halls were removed.. During the fight for Wrocław in 1945 the town hall was damaged. His representative character restored him many postwar reconstruction and maintenance.

Architecture

   The earliest consistorium from the end of the 13th century consisted of a two-bay, one-storey with basement, and with wooden ceiling hall, and a tower adjoining the west. The building was free-standing, from the north there was a passage between it and the House of Merchants, and the entrance was probably on the south side. The Council and Trade Bench building added in 1333 at the north-east corner was much smaller. Over its deeper basement, a new basement was built with a passage to the courtyard created between the consistorium and the Merchant’s House. From this passage prison cells were available, to serve as custody. In the next floor of the high ground floor there was a Council Chamber with three lancet windows. Meetings of the 23-person city council were held there. Initially, it was covered with a wooden ceiling, and from the mid-15th century with a rib vault. This brick building is currently annexe of the north-east of the town hall.

   In 1357, also the Chamber of Court was added to the consistorium, where court hearings took place. Initially, it was covered with a wooden ceiling, which in 1456 was replaced with a stellar vault based on a single, central pillar. On the north side of the room there was an elevation which served as the podium to the court, and on the first floor there was a chapel with a bay window dedicated to the altar. It was probably at the same time that the first floor over the former two-bay consistorium and the Council Hall was added. The tower was raised a few meters and covered with a high octagonal helmet with a gallery. The helmet was surrounded by a balustrade over the brick part of the tower. In the second half of the 14th century, one-storey extensions on the east and west sides were formed. Eastern was the seat of the mayor and his chancellery.

   In 1428, an extension was established at the Council Chamber. It housed the Council Office, originally covered with a wooden ceiling, and from the end of the fifteenth century, a net vault with polychrome bosses in the shape of, among others, the head of John the Baptist, the Silesian eagle, the Bohemia lion, or the letter “W”, the initial of the city. The office was the place of work of the secretary of the Council and the receiver, who participated in the meetings and prepared the necessary documentation.
  
Around 1480, the stone master Hans Berthold and Peter Franczke built the southern bay, and Peter Preusse with Briccius Gauske three southern avant-corps with richly decorated parts of the floor, overlaid in the form of a bay windows. At that time, the central and northern bays had a common roof and a tall, richly decorated gable with pinnacles from the east. The south bay and the north-eastern annex were covered by separate, lower roofs. The facades of the town hall were plastered and covered in painting in 1510. In 1548 the north-eastern annex was enlarged from the courtyard side. In this new part, a council office was placed on the ground floor, and on the upper floor a court chancellery office with a renaissance bay window facing the courtyard.

Current state

   The town hall in Wrocław is a unique European monument of secular gothic architecture. Today, it houses a branch of the Wrocław Municipal Museum and the Townsmen Art Museum, acting as its main exhibit. It can be visited from Wednesday to Saturday from 10.00 to 17.00, and on Sunday from 10.00 to 18.00. On Wednesdays, admission is free. In the cellars of the town hall there is the Świdnicka Cellar, one of the oldest gastronomic establishments in Europe.

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bibliography:
Pilch J, Leksykon zabytków architektury Dolnego Śląska, Warszawa 2005.
Website wikipedia.org, Ratusz we Wrocławiu.