Oudenaarde Town Hall was built by architect Hendrik van Pede in 1526–1537 to replace the medieval Schepenhuis (Aldermen's House) that occupied the same site. Another older structure, the 14th-century Cloth Hall, was retained and now forms a sort of extension at the back of the Town Hall proper.
The Oudenaarde Town Hall was a late flowering of secular Brabantine Gothic architecture, carrying on the stylistic tradition of the town halls at Leuven, Brussels, and Middelburg. Above the ground-story arcade with vaulted ceiling, the building displays typical features of its regional forerunners: a richly decorated facade with pointed-arch windows separated by canopied niches, and a steep, dormered roof surrounded by an openwork parapet. The niches, although designed to contain statues, stand empty.
Atop the central belfry tower of six stories with three terraces, a stone crown supports a gilded brass figure of Hanske de Krijger, mythical guardian of the city. The crown on the tower and the double-headed eagles over the attic windows pay homage to a famous visitor to Oudenaarde, Emperor Charles V, who fathered Margaret of Parma here a few years before construction of the Town Hall began.
The Town Hall initially combined functions of government and commerce, with rooms on the ground floor reserved for traders: the Corn House, Weighhouse and Lower Cloth Hall. Today, this floor accommodates the town's tourism office.
On the second floor, an elaborate portal crafted by Pauwel van der Schelden opens into the Schepenzaal, where the aldermen of Oudenaarde convened. The People's Hall takes up the front of the same floor, alongside the terrace overlooking the market square. This was the main room for receptions, banquets and entertainment.
The Town Hall boasts a collection of relics from Oudenaarde's past. The tapestries hanging in the Lower Cloth Hall and the adjacent Cloth Hall building represent an art form that brought the city fame between about the 15th–18th centuries. Another specialty of Oudenaarde during that time was the silversmith's trade, whose wares are displayed in the Silver Room on the third floor. The third floor also houses the Municipal Museum with various local art and artifacts.
The Town Hall and its Belfry were designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999.References:
The Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba, also known as the Great Mosque of Córdoba and the Mezquita is regarded as one of the most accomplished monuments of Moorish architecture.
According to a traditional account, a small Visigoth church, the Catholic Basilica of Saint Vincent of Lérins, originally stood on the site. In 784 Abd al-Rahman I ordered construction of the Great Mosque, which was considerably expanded by later Muslim rulers. The mosque underwent numerous subsequent changes: Abd al-Rahman II ordered a new minaret, while in 961 Al-Hakam II enlarged the building and enriched the Mihrab. The last of such reforms was carried out by Almanzor in 987. It was connected to the Caliph"s palace by a raised walkway, mosques within the palaces being the tradition for previous Islamic rulers – as well as Christian Kings who built their palaces adjacent to churches. The Mezquita reached its current dimensions in 987 with the completion of the outer naves and courtyard.
In 1236, Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, and the centre of the mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. Alfonso X oversaw the construction of the Villaviciosa Chapel and the Royal Chapel within the mosque. The kings who followed added further Christian features, such as King Henry II rebuilding the chapel in the 14th century. The minaret of the mosque was also converted to the bell tower of the cathedral. It was adorned with Santiago de Compostela"s captured cathedral bells. Following a windstorm in 1589, the former minaret was further reinforced by encasing it within a new structure.
The most significant alteration was the building of a Renaissance cathedral nave in the middle of the expansive structure. The insertion was constructed by permission of Charles V, king of Castile and Aragon. Artisans and architects continued to add to the existing structure until the late 18th century.
The building"s floor plan is seen to be parallel to some of the earliest mosques built from the very beginning of Islam. It had a rectangular prayer hall with aisles arranged perpendicular to the qibla, the direction towards which Muslims pray. The prayer hall was large and flat, with timber ceilings held up by arches of horseshoe-like appearance.
In planning the mosque, the architects incorporated a number of Roman columns with choice capitals. Some of the columns were already in the Gothic structure; others were sent from various regions of Iberia as presents from the governors of provinces. Ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass were used in the decorations. Marvellous mosaics and azulejos were designed. Later, the immense temple embodied all the styles of Morisco architecture into one composition.
The building is most notable for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite and porphyry. These were made from pieces of the Roman temple that had occupied the site previously, as well as other Roman buildings, such as the Mérida amphitheatre. The double arches were an innovation, permitting higher ceilings than would otherwise be possible with relatively low columns. The double arches consist of a lower horseshoe arch and an upper semi-circular arch.