Ratusz, za nim kościół św. Mikołaja. Fot. © Raimond Spekking

Stralsund town hall – one of the most important brick Gothic monuments in Europe

The Stralsund Town Hall (German: Stralsunder Rathaus) is one of the most important sights in the northern German port city of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The building is located on the southern frontage of the Old Market next to St. Nicholas Church. Erected in the 14th century, the town hall is a testament to the former power of the bourgeoisie, when Stralsund was one of the most important ports of the Hanseatic League and one of the most important examples of Brick Gothic in Europe.

The town hall was first mentioned in the mid-13th century. Stralsund received its town charter in 1234. In 1250, work began on the town council’s seat, the construction of which lasted in stages for more than a century. Around 1400, the monumental and distinctive façade on the side of the market square was built, which today is one of the symbols of the town. In 1680, a fire damaged a large part of the town hall.

Stralsund Town Hall in 1842, lithograph by Heinrich Wilhelm Teichgräber – http://digital.ub.uni-duesseldorf.de/ihd/content/titleinfo/4011804

The 18th century saw reconstruction of the building, during which the façade facing Ossenreverstraße was decorated with a Baroque portal. In 1881-82 the town architect Ernst von Haselberg restored the representative main façade and removed the Baroque stucco as part of the regothicisation of the building. Further conservation and modernisation work was carried out in the 1930s. The Second World War bombardments of the city fortunately bypassed the historic Town Hall. At the beginning of the 1980s, new renovation work began. Valuable elements of the interior design were restored, the galleries were partially renovated, and in the early 1990s the entire building was covered with a permanent glass roof.

Town Hall and market buildings. Photo Tilman2007, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ratusz w Stralsundzie
Gallery inside the town hall. Photo by Martin Kraft // photo.martinkraft.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The two-storey edifice consists of four wings. Inside there is a small rectangular courtyard. In the basement of the town hall, the vaulted cellars have been preserved, while above, the ground floor, which had commercial functions, housed around 40 shops. The first floor was occupied by the city authorities; on the north side was the most important room in the town hall – the city council chamber, now known as Löwen Halle. Above this were the back rooms; attics covered with gabled roofs served a similar function.

Ratusz w Stralsundzie
Rear view of the building. Photo Klugschnacker, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The representative north façade known as the Schaufassade consists of six axes repeating the same architectural scheme. It features the coats of arms of the six Hanseatic cities of Rostock, Greifswald, Lübeck, Hamburg, Wismar and Stralsund. Above are rosettes decorated with ceramic masquerade and triangular gables. The façade of each storey has been shaped differently. On the ground floor there are arcades.

Ratusz w Stralsundzie
North elevation of the town hall. Photo © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

After the political breakthrough in 1989, Stralsund became a model among the so-called ‘new states’ when it came to supporting the construction and preservation of historic buildings in the city. The historic centre including the harbour was extensively restored with the help of a government programme, and the concept of residential development in the city was modified.

Since 2002, the Stralsund Old Town, together with the Old Town of Wismar, has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List with the title: Historic Old Towns of Stralsund and Wismar.

Source: stralsund.de, eurob.org

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