Discover History: Town Hall

The Old and the New Townhall

The Old Town Hall

The first town hall was linked to the High Tower, but its period of construction is disputed (either the 12th or the 14th century). It served as the bell tower for St. James Church, and it was where the city’s watchmen lived until 1913. The 64-metre-high structure took on its current form, including its baroque roof, after a fire in 1746. After its total destruction in 1945, it was rebuilt in 1986.


The second tower, called the Seigerturm after the town clock it houses, was constructed in 1486, but the early baroque roof was not added until 1618. It formed the core of the new town hall complex, built from 1496 to 1498 in the late Gothic style, although its design would undergo many changes over the centuries. It owes its current form to the reconstruction completed in 1950.


The Judith Lucretia Portal (1559) was relocated here in 1910 from a town house across the square. Above the seating alcoves are the figures of the two women – one from the Old Testament and one from ancient Rome – who lend the portal its name. In the window above the portal, the moving figures of the glockenspiel, installed in 2002, appear several times throughout the day.

The New Town Hall

Built between 1907 and 1911 as an extension of the Old Town Hall, which had become too small, the New Town Hall was built on its eastern side.


Its construction required the demolition of an entire neighbourhood. However, the architect Richard Möbius strove to incorporate echoes of the city’s medieval character, such as the pointed arches of ground floor openings and the design of the gable above the council chamber.


A larger-than-life statue of the mythological Roland took up its place on the corner of the building facing the New Market. The tower looming above it all has housed a 48-bell carillon since 1978. Thanks to its reinforced concrete structure, the New Town Hall was the only building on the square to be spared from destruction in 1945.


Because of this, the ceremonial rooms inside the building (vestibule, city councillors’ chamber, council hall) and the Ratskeller with its invaluable art nouveau design can still largely be admired in their original condition today. Foremost among them is the monumental work by the painter Max Klinger Arbeit – Wohlstand – Schönheit (“Labour-Prosperity-Beauty”). Completed in 1918, it reveals how the city viewed itself in the 20th century.

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