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:
The Church of Saint Demetrius, or Hagios Demetrios, is the main sanctuary dedicated to Saint Demetrius, the patron saint of Thessaloniki. It is part of the site Palaeochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessaloniki on the list of World Heritage Sites by UNESCO since 1988.
The first church on the spot was constructed in the early 4th century AD, replacing a Roman bath. A century later, a prefect named Leontios replaced the small oratory with a larger, three-aisled basilica. Repeatedly gutted by fires, the church eventually was reconstructed as a five-aisled basilica in 629–634. This was the surviving form of the church much as it is today. The most important shrine in the city, it was probably larger than the local cathedral. The historic location of the latter is now unknown.
The church had an unusual shrine called the ciborium, a hexagonal, roofed structure at one side of the nave. It was made of or covered with silver. The structure had doors and inside was a couch or bed. Unusually, it did not hold any physical relics of the saint. The ciborium seems to have been a symbolic tomb. It was rebuilt at least once.
The basilica is famous for six extant mosaic panels, dated to the period between the latest reconstruction and the inauguration of the Byzantine Iconoclasm in 730. These mosaics depict St. Demetrius with officials responsible for the restoration of the church (called the founders, ktetors) and with children. An inscription below one of the images glorifies heaven for saving the people of Thessalonica from a pagan Slavic raid in 615.
Thessaloniki became part of the Ottoman Empire in 1430. About 60 years later, during the reign of Bayezid II, the church was converted into a mosque, known as the Kasımiye Camii after the local Ottoman mayor, Cezeri Kasım Pasha. The symbolic tomb however was kept open for Christian veneration. Other magnificent mosaics, recorded as covering the church interior, were lost either during the four centuries when it functioned as a mosque (1493–1912) or in the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917 that destroyed much of the city. It also destroyed the roof and upper walls of the church. Black-and-white photographs and good watercolour versions give an idea of the early Byzantine craftsmanship lost during the fire.
Following the Great Fire of 1917, it took decades to restore the church. Tombstones from the city"s Jewish cemetery - destroyed by the Greek and Nazi German authorities - were used as building materials in these restoration efforts in the 1940s. Archeological excavations conducted in the 1930s and 1940s revealed interesting artifacts that may be seen in a museum situated inside the church"s crypt. The excavations also uncovered the ruins of a Roman bath, where St. Demetrius was said to have been held prisoner and executed. A Roman well was also discovered. Scholars believe this is where soldiers dropped the body of St. Demetrius after his execution. After restoration, the church was reconsecrated in 1949.