Levoča town has a historic center with a well preserved town wall, a Renaissance church with the highest wooden altar in World, carved by Master Paul of Levoča, and many other Renaissance buildings. Levoča is part of the UNESCO to World Heritage List of Levoča, Spiš Castle and the associated cultural monuments.
Levoča was inhabited as early as the Stone Age. In the 11th century, this region was conquered and, subsequently, became part of the Kingdom of Hungary and remained such until 1918. After the Mongol invasions of 1241/1242, the area was also settled by Germans. The town became the capital of the Association of Spiš Germans, with a form of self-rule within the Kingdom of Hungary. The oldest written reference to the city of Levoča dates back to 1249. In 1317, Levoča received the status of a royal town. In 1321 a wide storing right was granted enticing merchants, craftsmen and mine owners to settle in this town.
In the 15th century the town, located on an intersection of trade routes between Poland and Hungary, became a rich center of commerce. It exported iron, copper, furs, leather, corn, and wine. At the same time the town became an important cultural centre. The English humanist Leonard Cox taught around 1520 in a school in Levoča. The bookseller Brewer from Wittenberg transformed his bookstore in a prolific printing plant, that lasted for 150 years. Finally, one of the best-known medieval woodcarvers Master Paul of Levoča settled here.
The town kept this cultural and economic status until the end of 16th century, in spite of two damaging fires: the first in 1550 destroyed nearly all of the Gothic architecture and another in 1599. In this period of prosperity several churches were built and the town had a school, library, pharmacy, and physicians. There was a printing press as early as 1624. Levoča was a center of the Protestant Reformation in Northern Hungary. The town started to decline during the anti-Habsburg uprisings in the 17th century.
The old town is picturesquely sited and still surrounded by most of its ancient walls. The town square boasts three major monuments; the quaint Old Town Hall (15th-17th century) which now contains a museum, the domed Evangelical Lutheran Church (1837) and the 14th century Roman Catholic Church of St. James. It houses a magnificently carved and painted wooden Gothic altar, the largest in Europe, (18.62 m in height), created by Master Paul around 1520. The square is very well preserved and contains a number of striking buildings which were the townhouses of the local nobility in the late Middle Ages. Also notable in the square is the wrought iron 'Cage of Shame', dating back to the 17th century, used for public punishment of miscreants. A plaque on one of the houses records the printing and publication in the town of the most famous work of Comenius, the Orbis Pictus. Other buildings on the square house a historical museum and a museum dedicated to the work of Master Paul.
Behind the square on Kláštorská Street are the 14th-century church and remains of the old monastery of the Minorites, now incorporated into a Church grammar school. Nearby is the town's Polish Gate, a Gothic construction of the 15th century.References:
The Old Town Hall of Wrocław is one of the main landmarks of the city. The Old Town Hall's long history reflects developments that have taken place in the city since its initial construction. The town hall serves the city of Wroclaw and is used for civic and cultural events such as concerts held in its Great Hall. In addition, it houses a museum and a basement restaurant.
The town hall was developed over a period of about 250 years, from the end of 13th century to the middle of 16th century. The structure and floor plan changed over this extended period in response to the changing needs of the city. The exact date of the initial construction is not known. However, between 1299 and 1301 a single-storey structure with cellars and a tower called the consistory was built. The oldest parts of the current building, the Burghers’ Hall and the lower floors of the tower, may date to this time. In these early days the primary purpose of the building was trade rather than civic administration activities.
Between 1328 and 1333 an upper storey was added to include the Council room and the Aldermen’s room. Expansion continued during the 14th century with the addition of extra rooms, most notably the Court room. The building became a key location for the city’s commercial and administrative functions.
The 15th and 16th centuries were times of prosperity for Wroclaw as was reflected in the rapid development of the building during that period. The construction program gathered momentum, particularly from 1470 to 1510, when several rooms were added. The Burghers’ Hall was re-vaulted to take on its current shape, and the upper story began to take shape with the development of the Great Hall and the addition of the Treasury and Little Treasury.
Further innovations during the 16th century included the addition of the city’s Coat of arms (1536), and the rebuilding of the upper part of the tower (1558–59). This was the final stage of the main building program. By 1560, the major features of today’s Stray Rates were established.
The second half of the 17th century was a period of decline for the city, and this decline was reflected in the Stray Rates. Perhaps by way of compensation, efforts were made to enrich the interior decorations of the hall. In 1741, Wroclaw became a part of Prussia, and the power of the City diminished. Much of the Stray Rates was allocated to administering justice.
During the 19th century there were two major changes. The courts moved to a separate building, and the Rates became the site of the city council and supporting functions. There was also a major program of renovation because the building had been neglected and was covered with creeping vines. The town hall now has several en-Gothic features including some sculptural decoration from this period.
In the early years of the 20th century improvements continued with various repair work and the addition of the Little Bear statue in 1902. During the 1930s, the official role of the Rates was reduced and it was converted into a museum. By the end of World War II Town Hall suffered minor damage, such as aerial bomb pierced the roof (but not exploded) and some sculptural elements were lost. Restoration work began in the 1950s following a period of research, and this conservation effort continued throughout the 20th century. It included refurbishment of the clock on the east facade.