The Town Hall of Leuven is a landmark building on that city"s Grote Markt (Main Market) square, across from the monumental St. Peter"s Church. Built in a Brabantine Late Gothic style between 1448 and 1469, it is famous for its ornate architecture, crafted in lace-like detail.
The building today known as the Town Hall was the Voirste Huys of a larger complex of municipal buildings on which construction started in 1439 at the site of an existing town hall. The first architect, Sulpitius Van Vorst, died soon after the back wings of the complex got started and was succeeded briefly by Jan Keldermans II, whose death in 1445 ended the first construction campaign. The project resumed in 1448 under the direction of Matheus de Layens. The first stone of the Voirste Huys was laid on 28 March of that year. The cellars of some demolished houses were incorporated into the new construction and can today be accessed through a small door at the left side of the Town Hall. The initial plans, influenced by the town hall at Brussels, included a belfry tower at one of the corners. This design was modified by de Layens, resulting in the symmetrical arrangement of turrets observed today. The exterior masonry and roof were finished in 1460, and in 1469 the building was complete.
In the 19th century, the Town Hall underwent renovations made necessary by centuries" worth of decay. The building remained standing amid the devastation of Leuven during World War I, escaping with only minor damage. In the Second World War, a bomb strike in front of the building caused yet more damage; it took until 1983 before repairs were completed.
The Town Hall has three main stories, lined with pointed Gothic windows on the three sides visible from the Markt. Above is a gallery parapet, behind which rises a steep roof studded with four tiers of dormers. At the angles of the roof are octagonal turrets pierced with slits allowing for the passage of light.
Statues in canopied niches are distributed all over the building. The corbels supporting the statues are carved with Biblical scenes in high relief. While the niches and corbels are original with the building, the 236 statues themselves are relatively recent, dating from after 1850. Those of the first floor represent personages of importance in the local history of the city; those of the second, patron saints and symbolic figures; those of the third, the Counts of Leuven and Dukes of Brabant from various ages.
The main façade has an entrance staircase, and two portals in the center, above which are figures of Saint Peter (left) and Madonna and Child (right), the former in compliment to the patron of the church opposite.
The interior accommodates an interesting collection of artwork, including sculptures by Constantin Meunier and Jef Lambeaux. Inside can also be seen the portraits of the Leuven mayors since 1794.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.