The Town Hall of Augsburg is one of the most significant secular buildings of the Renaissance style north of the Alps. On 25 August 1615, the foundation stone of the building was laid. The exterior of the building was completed in March 1620, and the interior in 1624. Technologically, the Augsburger Rathaus was a pioneering performance; upon its completion it was the first building in the world with more than six storeys. The rigid elegance of the large stonework was similar to Florence, the cultural and financial capital of Northern Italy, with which the city gladly compared itself. The self-image of the Free Imperial City of Augsburg is represented by two conspicuous ornaments on the large gable at the front of the building: the first is the Reichsadler, or Imperial Eagle of the Holy Roman Empire, representing the town's importance; the second is the large copper pine cone, or Zirbelnuss, which is the symbol of Augsburg.
The view of the Rathaus was almost completely blocked by the stock exchange building built in 1828, until British bombing on the night of 25 February 1944 destroyed the latter. The removal of the remains of the stock exchange in the 1960s finally made it possible to view the Rathaus properly from the town square.
The original Augsburger Rathaus was built in 1385, and it was decided at the beginning of the seventeenth century to complete a simple renovation of it in order to accommodate the Imperial Reichstag, which then sat in the city. In 1609, the town council commissioned the renowned architect, Elias Holl, to draw up a renovation plan for the Gothic building. It was only after six years of work that Holl could produce a plan for the magistrates, but this was rejected by the council, and, to Holl's surprise, he was issued with a new brief: to demolish the old Gothic town hall and erect in its place a beautiful new building.
Elias Holl produced his plan for the new Augsburger Rathaus, which was to be built in the Renaissance style, and, on 25 August 1615, the foundation stone was laid. It was the will of the magistrates that the Rathaus should not have a tower, however Elias Holl insisted on the famous onion domes by the gable, and in 1618 was allowed to proceed. The exterior of the Rathaus was completed in 1620, and the interior in 1624, following an almost fifteen-year planning phase and nine years of building.
Inside the Rathaus, Holl built three overlaying halls: on the ground floor, behind the main entrance, is the Lower Fletz, and on the floor above, the Upper Fletz; by far the most impressive room in the building, however, is the double-height Goldener Saal, or Golden Hall, with its magnificent doorways, murals and coffered ceiling. Adjacent to the Goldener Saal are the Fürstenzimmer, or Prince's Rooms, designed as retreats for important guests. The construction cost of the new Rathaus was around 100,000 Guilder.
The Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which spread across Europe shortly after the beginning of work on the Rathaus, also took its toll on Augsburg. One of the major economic centres of the continent before the war, it emerged in the middle of the seventeenth century in decline. The war had cost Augsburg not only its centuries-old economic supremacy in Europe, but also more than half of its population. The Reichstag, for which the splendid Rathaus was originally built, now took place in other German cities. Only once more, in the late 17th Century, was the Rathaus the scene of a celebration of nationwide importance, when Joseph I held a banquet in the Golden Hall in 1690, on his coronation as King of the Romans.
During the devastating British bombing of Augsburg in World War II, the Rathaus was hit a number of times by high-explosive and incendiary bombs, completely burning the exterior of the building. The Rathaus was rebuilt after the war, the exterior according to its historic appearance but the interior much simplified, and from 1955 was again used as the administrative centre of the city. Between 1980 and 1984, the façade of the building was restored to its original colours, according to historical records. Inside the Renaissance building, what had been damaged in the Golden Hall during the war was restored to its original splendour, and on 9 January 1985, the Rathaus was reopened as part of the city's two-thousandth anniversary celebrations.
The Augsburger Rathaus now houses permanent exhibits on the history of the former imperial city and its partner cities, as well as requently changing exhibitions on different historical and current political issues.. These are held in the Lower Fletz and are open to any visitor. The Goldener Saal is a popular venue for receptions, concerts and ceremonies. The Lower Fletz and Goldener Saal are open daily, although there is an entrance charge to the Goldener Saal. The basement of the Rathaus houses a Rathskeller.References:
Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.
Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.
Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.