The Old Town Hall, Gdańsk
Narodowy Instytut Dziedzictwa pl

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The Old Town Hall is attributed to Anton van Obberghen, a distinguished architect from the Netherlands and the most eminent representative of the Renaissance movement in Gdańsk. The history of the building is also intertwined with that of another famous figure, namely that of Johannes Hevelius, who was a member of the Old Town council.

History

The Old Town Hall was erected in years 1587-1595, following the demolition of the earlier Gothic edifice. The design is attributed to Anton van Obberghen. According to latest research, the stonework of the building was executed by Nikolaus Jacobssen from Brussels. After 1793, the building ceased to perform its original function, with its interiors adapted as a court of law in years 1803-1806. In 1881, three facades of the building were subjected to renovation works. In years 1911-1914 the interiors were modified once again, with the Great Hall being restored to its former size; the Renaissance ceilings were restored and historicist fittings were installed. During that period, a number of valuable items from various tenement houses in Gdańsk were also relocated to the town hall, including a tripartite Renaissance arch (dating back to around 1560), a 16th century stone portal, a set of allegorical paintings from the circle of the painter Herman Han (early 17th century) and Sybille by Adolf Boy (first half of the 17th century). During World War II, the basement vaulting was reinforced in order to make it possible to use the basements as an air raid shelter. The building suffered only slight damage in 1945. A comprehensive restoration of the roof, windows and general research and conservation works on the interiors were performed in the 1990s. Conservation works in the Great Hall followed between 2002 and 2003.

Description

The building is located along one of the main routes leading through the Old Town, in the western frontage of Korzenna street, near the spot where the street intersects the Radunia river channel. The building was designed in the Renaissance style, its layout and shape reminiscent of Flemish architecture as well as of the typical town hall designs used in the Northern Netherlands at the time (which, however, were characterised by the absence of a tower). The building was erected on a floor plan the shape of which approximates that of a square, its sides measuring about 24 metres. The building features a clear division into two distinct segments, effected by the monumental structural wall running along the north-south axis. The basements feature a two-nave, five-bay layout with four pillars in each nave. The building itself has a two-bay layout, with a hallway running across the building along the east-west axis. The body of the building is compact in shape and features two storeys and two basement levels; the structure is covered with tall hip roofs. Slender pinnacles with flag-shaped weathervanes are positioned at the ends of both roof ridges. An octagonal turret featuring a complex arrangement of domes and a total of three roof lanterns set on top of one another projects from the centre of the southern roof ridge. The town hall is a brick building, with the walls of the lower basement level being made of stone boulders. The facades are partially clad with bricks and partially plastered, with stone architectural detailing. The basements feature brick barrel vaults with lunettes; the vestibule has a flattened barrel vault supported by arches, while all other rooms inside the building have wooden ceilings. The town hall retains its original wooden roof truss - a king post truss structure with only a few additions made in the 20th century. The roofs are covered with S-shaped roof tiles, while the turret and pinnacles are clad with sheet metal. The red brick facades is contrasted with grey stone decorations. The horizontal layout of the facade is emphasized by two friezes, an attic and relatively wide rectangular windows. The most lavishly decorated part of the building is its front facade, although some decoration can also be seen on the southern facade; the remaining embellishments are simplified in shape, having originally been obscured by other buildings that stood nearby. The front facade is topped by an attic with an arcaded frieze, enriched by the presence of corner turrets; the central axis of the facade accentuated by a portal and a dormer and turret projecting from the surface of the roof. The main portal is framed by herm corbels and rusticated quoins. The ground floor features a hallway which runs along the axis of the building, leading to a staircase at the end. There are two rooms on both sides of the hallway in both the front and rear suite of rooms. The Great Hall is located on the first floor, in the front suite; the rear suite contains the central staircase and two other rooms, including the so-called mayor’s office. Interior highlights are the original Renaissance ceiling in the Great Hall and the spiral Baroque staircase leading to the mezzanine; other valuable fittings were brought into the town hall in the early 20th century. The entire design is complemented by 20th century historicist fittings, including a Baroque Revival staircase and Renaissance Revival fireplace surrounds.

Limited access to the historic building. Visitors may access the building every day between 10:00 and 18:00 (detailed information available at http://www.nck.org.pl).

Compiled by Krystyna Babnis, Regional Branch of the National Heritage Board of Poland in Gdańsk, 07.07.2014.

Bibliography

  • Duchnowski T., Ratusz Starego Miasta, [w:] Śliwiński B. (red. Nauk.), Encyklopedia Gdańska, Gdańsk 2012, s. 870-871.
  • Habela J., Ratusz Staromiejski w Gdańsku, Wrocław 1975.

General information

  • Type: town hall
  • Chronology: 2 poł. XVI w.
  • Form of protection: register of monuments
  • Address: Korzenna 33/35, Gdańsk
  • Location: Voivodeship pomorskie, district Gdańsk, commune Gdańsk
  • Source: National Heritage Board of Poland

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