Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Germany : Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen (2004)

The Town Hall and the statue of Roland on the marketplace of Bremen in north-west Germany are outstanding representations of civic autonomy and sovereignty, as these developed in the Holy Roman Empire in Europe. The old town hall was built in the Gothic style in the early 15th century, after Bremen joined the Hanseatic League. The building was renovated in the so-called Weser Renaissance style in the early 17th century. A new town hall was built next to the old one in the early 20th century as part of an ensemble that survived bombardment during the Second World War. The statue stands 5.5 m tall and dates back to 1404.

The origins of Bremen go back to the 8th and 9th centuries, when it became a seat for a bishop. Its foundation is referred to Bishop Willehad and Emperor Charlemagne who supposedly granted the initial privileges. In 965, Bremen was given the rights to raise customs and to mint. The citizenry was united in a corporate body, universitas civium, as recognized in a diploma in 1186. There is reference to a city council whose members are called consules, in 1225. The City Council prepared a civic code as a law of the people, of which the 1303-04 version became the principal reference. The town entered the Hanseatic League in 1358. Though having already obtained privileges of civic autonomy, it was formally recognized as Freie Reichstadt (free imperial town) in 1646. From 1947, it is one of the Lands of the Federal Republic of Germany.
The Roland statue in stone was erected in 1404, replacing an earlier wooden statue, and is considered the oldest Roland statue still in place in Germany. The statue used to have a shelter, which was removed in 1885. In 1938, the statue was subject to a major repair, and other restorations followed in 1959 and 1969. In 1983-84, the Roland was again provided by a protective fence as originally; the head was replaced with a copy. Over the years, the statue has had various colour schemes.
The first Rathaus of Bremen existed in the 14th century. The current Old Town Hall was built in 1405-1409, and renovated in 1595-1612. The master builder was Lüder von Bentheim (ca. 1555-1612), who already had other projects in Bremen, as well as reconstructing the exterior of the Gothic town hall of Leiden (Netherlands) beginning in 1585. The new architectural elements were designed following the plans by Hans Vredeman de Vries, Hendrik Goltzius, Jacob Floris and other masters of the Dutch Renaissance. The New Town Hall was added in 1909- 1913.
The town of Bremen was heavily bombed during the Second World War, and some 62% of the buildings were lost. However, the area of the town hall survived relatively well.

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