The main headquarters of the Gdańsk History Museum is a Gothic-Renaissance Main Town Hall, dominating the panorama of the Royal Route – the most representative route of the listed part of the city. The origins of the Town Hall, which from the very beginning was the seat of the authorities of the main Gdańsk area, from the 14th century referred to as the Main City, go back to the early Middle Ages. From the mid-15th century it became the centre of power for the entire area located on the Motława river. It served this function for a few centuries, and throughout this time was the main municipal building.
The exact date of the creation of the building is unknown. According to 17th century Gdansk chronicler, Stephan Graua, the construction of the Town Hall was started in the spring of 1327 and completed in December 1336. The Gdańsk chronicler did not however provide the source of this information. In the 14th century the Town Hall was probably a small one-storey building constructed as a frame structure from bricks and wood.
The accounting books from 1379 – 1382 contain information on the expenditures on building materials and works carried out in the Town Hall by the bricklayer Heinrich Ungeradin. The works concerned the reconstruction and extension of the building to the west. The next extension of the building was carried out from 1454 – 1457. In 1457 Gdansk was visited by the Polish king, Casimir Jagiellon. In the enlarged and renovated Main Town Hall, the Polish ruler added the crown to the Gdańsk coat of arms as visible evidence of recognising it as a royal city.
The general development of the city and the enlargement of the city’s local government by King Sigismund I the Old in 1526 by adding a third chamber (the first one formed the Council, the second the Board) for the representation of the merchants and guilds, brought about further extension of the building. The building in its current size was not able to fulfil its regular and occasional functions (it accommodated the Mayor’s office; the City Council and the court held their meetings in the building; it was the seat of the burgrave, who was the representative of the Polish king in the city; and in addition it was a meeting place of the Third Chamber). Around 1537 the construction of a two-storey high annex started around the internal courtyard in the place of the former inn.
On October 3, 1556 a hazardous fire broke out in the Town Hall. Repair of the damage took several years and initiated the reconstruction of the building in the Renaissance style. First, from 1559 – 1560 a new glamorous cupola for the tower was constructed and on its spire a gold covered statue of the then Polish king, Sigismund II August, was installed in 1561. A set of 14 chime bells, called a carillon, was installed inside the cupola.
The Gdańsk merchants were becoming increasingly rich on trade and strived to accentuate the city’s position by giving appropriate splendour to the interior of the Town Hall. At the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century, this interior was decorated by artists of the golden age of Gdańsk arts, including such masters as: Izaak van den Block, Hans Vredeman de Vries, Willem van der Meer, Anton Moeller and Szymon Herle. Overall administration of the works was managed by Dutchman, Anton van Obberghen, who at the time held the position of town builder.
The first floor became the most representative storey. It accommodated the most important rooms of the Town Hall – the Great Council Hall, also called the Red Hall, and the Great Wety Hall, from the 19th century called the White Hall. Beautiful rooms were also created inside the annex, to which two wings (northern and eastern) were added in the 16th century, which include the Small Council Hall (also called the Winter Hall) and the Small Wety Court Hall (the Fireplace Hall). The annex and the side wings formed a rectangular internal courtyard.
The seizure of Gdańsk by Prussia under the second partition of Poland brought about changes to the city’s government system. This was also reflected in the new functional layout of the Town Hall, as in the creation of the Mayor’s office in the former Town Cash Office Hall.
This valuable monument was badly damaged during World War II. In March 1945 fire destroyed the cupola of the tower, while the wooden ceilings and the walls were damaged by bombs and gunfire. The saved fragments of the walls were so weak that even an ordinary storm could be disastrous. According to preliminary arrangements, the building was not fit for reconstruction and was classified for demolition. However in the end the building survived.
Reconstruction of the town hall, started in 1946, was a difficult project and is regarded as one of the outstanding Polish post-war conservation achievements. After extensive bricklaying-conservation work, on 2 April 1970, the reconstructed town hall was commissioned to accommodate the Gdańsk Historical Museum, which since 2000 has been the Gdańsk History Museum.References:
Main Town Hall makes a really big impression. With In Gdansk you will find many such climatic places and certainly one of them is a restaurant Szafarnia 10, located on the Marina. There you can eat not only delicious fish and seafood, but also admire Moltawa River, fron the glass part of the building.
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.