Lübeck City Hall in 3D

The hall of citizenship

Lübeck was sovereign under international law from 1806-1866 and even after that was characterized by a high degree of self-government and consensus democracy. A Bürgerschaft in the modern sense has existed in Lübeck only since 1848. Before that, there were the so-called "Kollegien", 12 in number. One can understand the colleges as a community of the different groups of citizens. The colleges as a whole were called the Bürgerschaft. This citizenship was structured according to estates. It was limited exclusively to merchants, tradesmen and craftsmen, who were not considered according to their numerical strength. Before 1848, this "citizenship" did not have a room: each of the 12 colleges met, deliberated and decided separately.

The neo-Gothic staircase

Guests of the house are led to the upper floor via a red carpet for every appointment. The neo-Gothic style staircase was built at the end of the 19th century. On the mezzanine level, the eye is drawn to the murals there. In the center, the eye is caught by the depiction of how Duke Henry the Lion appointed the first Lübeck council. To the left of it, the Lübeck Cathedral can be seen under construction, founded by Henry in 1173 and consecrated in 1247. On the far right, you can see a town clerk with the document of Barbarossa's privilege. Emperor Frederick the First endowed Lübeck with special rights in 1188 with this document in order to expand Lübeck's supremacy in the region.

The Renaissance door

The entrance to the Audience Hall is formed by the Renaissance door, which was made in 1573 by the master carpenter Tönnies Evers the Elder from Lübeck. On the capitals facing the foyer are the pictorial representations of the goddess of justice, Justitia, with scales and a sword, and the goddess of wisdom, Minerva or Athena, with a mirror and a snake. On the inside, the richly carved magnificent portal shows its character as a gateway to a court, with the motif of Solomon's judgment immortalized in wood and the inscription enthroned above everything "BOTH PART SHALL A JUDGE HEAR VND THE ORDLE" (Both sides shall a judge hear and then judge).

The mayors of Lübeck

In fact, it is not possible to use the opposite gender at this point, because since the city was founded, it has only ever been presided over by men as mayors. Until today there were 229 men in office, at least that's what the vernacular says, even if there is scientific criticism of the counting method. With the portrait painting that emerged in the Renaissance period, a tradition is also constantly maintained in Lübeck. Mayors who have retired from office are given the special honor of having a portrait of themselves painted at the expense of the city, which then finds a place in the town hall. In fact, only portraits of about 80 former mayors hang in the town hall, many of the other paintings are still in museums or back in private hands. Only those office holders during the time of National Socialism cannot be viewed in the town hall. On the one hand, because no portraits were made of them. On the other hand, because they were not democratically legitimized and thus did not correspond to the liberal self-image of Lübeck.  

The old treasury

On the upper floor of the Renaissance porch of the Town Hall there is a beautiful simple cross vault which leads to the rooms of the former treasury of the city, which was housed there until the French rule in 1811. After the restoration of the constitution of Lübeck, the part of the building underwent frequent changes in use. Among other things, the premises were used as a bet (former police office), as a stamp room or as the office of the citizenship. Nowadays, the premises house a caucus of the citizenship and the door installed there was acquired from private ownership in 1909 and installed a year later. In the arched field above the door there is a crude representation in oil on canvas of the "interest groschen", which is to be understood as a reference to the duty of each citizen to pay the money due to the state. This is again underlined by the words under the picture: "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's."

The Lion Hall or the Danzelhus

The entire upper floor of the long house, from the oriel room to the war room, was occupied by the town's banqueting hall, the "Danzelhus", which from the 15th century was also called the "Löwensaal" after the lions placed on the beams. These were in fact real stuffed lions. In 1483 the council of the town of Kampen donated two live young lions to the Lübeck council. There are also records that live lions were kept in Lübeck in the 15th century, as their upkeep could be found in the cost books. However, five stuffed lions are said to have been placed in the Lion Hall at that time. It is not known whether the lions of Kampen were a pair and had descendants or whether the town later got or bought more lions. Today, the mayor's office is housed here, which as the central administrative office helps to determine the fate of the city.

The City President and the Citizenship

The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany enshrines the right of municipal self-government. In addition to the elected mayor, the municipal or city council, which in the Hanseatic cities is traditionally referred to as the "Bürgerschaft" (citizens), is an organ of this democratic form of government. The chairman of the Bürgerschaft is called the Stadtpräsidentin or Stadtpräsident. The city president represents the citizenry on public occasions and, together with the mayor, the city as a territorial entity. The Bürgerschaft determines the goals and principles for the administration of Lübeck and makes all important decisions in matters of self-government. Lübeck's Bürgerschaft usually meets once a month. The committee work is now also completely paperless and the meetings are also streamed on the Internet as well as broadcast on local radio so that all citizens can participate.

The Audience Hall

Today's Audience Hall is the former council chamber of the Lübeck Council. Not only were meetings held here during the Hanseatic Days, but court was also held here in disputes between the Hanseatic cities, guilds of the city or against individuals. Around 1759 to 1761 the hall was redesigned in rococo style. At that time the 10 paintings were made by the Italian artist Stefano Torelli and his pupil Francesco Gandini.  The motifs chosen were cardinal and state virtues, which were to emphasize the authority and prestige of the Council.To the left of the entrance: „The liberal arts“ To the right of the entrance: „The trade“ Then from left to right: „Secrecy“ „Temperance“ „Cleverness“ „Caution“ (vigilance) „Unity“ „Justice“ „Mercifulness“ „Freedom“Torelli had deliberately used female figures in most of the paintings to represent the respective virtue, only the attribute of secrecy could, according to his contemporary view, only be embodied by a male warrior.

Portrait painting

Characteristic of the whole town hall are the many portraits of the former mayors. With the Renaissance came this art form, which today gives us a few glimpses of the past. A special painting technique, silver-eye painting, in which the eyes are painted somewhat cross-eyed, creates the optical illusion that the portrait subject is looking at you from all angles. The eyes even seem to follow you when you move. But even small details like the one with Dr. Anton Köhler are revealing. The latter holds a lemon in his right hand, which was considered a sign of mourning and that the painted was no longer alive when the painting was completed. Many of the paintings show in the background that the model was standing in the town hall, which was always also to be understood as a discreet reference to the special position.

The red hall

At the end of the 19th century, the city senate decided to carry out a comprehensive renovation of the town hall, taking into account its previous structural condition. Thus, among other things, the Red Hall was created, for whose name the red silk covering of the walls gave. On about twelve square meters a large canvas painting impresses and dominates the room. It shows the naval battle of Gotland on May 30, 1564, and commemorates the victory of the Lübeck fleet over the Swedes. The Lübeck admiral, Councilman Friedrich Knebel, and the skipper Henning Krage captured the Swedish admiral's ship Makeloes, the flagship of the Swedish King Erik XIV, after which it caught fire, the black powder supplies exploded and the Makeloes sank in the Baltic Sea. The painting by the artist Hans Bohrdt was created in 1901 and Senator Emil Possehl donated it to his hometown.

The Commissary Room

Another room that emerged at the end of the 19th century was the commissioner's room. Now the name has nothing to do with a police or crime commissioner. The term commissioner is derived from the Middle Latin "commissarius" and means something like commissioner or authorized representative. Accordingly, the room with its beautiful coffered ceiling decorated with floral motifs is named after those people who performed their duties there on behalf of the Hanseatic city and were also equipped with the corresponding powers. Today, like many other historic rooms in the town hall, the room is used as a meeting room or for various events.  

The War Room and the Lübeck Shrine

In the southern part of the extension from the middle of the 15th century was the Kriegstube (War Room), an office of Lübeck's citizen militia or military. This war room was widely famous for the rich and impressive paneling on which the Lübeck master craftsman Tönnies Evers the Younger had worked for almost 20 years until shortly before his death in 1613. Unfortunately, this part of the town hall fell victim to a British air raid on March 29, 1942. After the reconstruction, the nowadays so-called "Lübeck Shrine" was built on the spot. Once again a work of Lübeck's master craftsmen, who used 38 different types of wood here, and three panels show the history of Lübeck as a port city and trading center. Especially on the two historical city views you can discover many interesting details from the history of Lübeck, for example that today's shopping mile and pedestrian zone of the city center, the Breite Straße, used to be a popular main street for car traffic.

One of the oldest town halls in Germany

Since the middle of the 13th century, administration has been housed in the premises of Lübeck's town hall. Only a few town halls from this early phase of Germany's urban development are still used today by the administration and the council, in Lübeck the Bürgerschaft. Since that time, the mayors of Lübeck have also had their seat in this house and at least in the late Middle Ages it was a center of power in Northern Europe, because hardly any decision in the important economic area of the Baltic Sea was not influenced or even determined by the office holders. Even today, the mayor of Lübeck is automatically the foreman of the association of cities "The Hanseatic League", which was reestablished in 1980 with many old member cities from the wedding in the late Middle Ages and meets once a year for a Hansa Convention.

The bay window room

In the past, this small and beautifully designed room of the town hall housed, among other things, the excise chamber together with the pound customs, in today's terms the tax and customs office of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck. But also the parlor of the bet, also called "weddehus", as a kind of police authority or rather trade police station, was located here temporarily until the year 1811. From the small attached bay window, which dates back to 1586, one has a wide view into Breite Straße. To the left above the main entrance to the town hall, one can still see an old balcony from which laws or other proclamations were proclaimed. Today the room is used as a meeting room or for smaller weddings.

The sculpture Gustav I. Wasa by Anders Zorn

On the upper floor of the Renaissance wing, in a niche, there is a statue of Gustav I Wasa. Wasa was the imperial administrator from 1521 to 1523 and king of Sweden from June 6, 1523 until his death. Wasa was a member of the Kalmar Union, which was ruled by the Danish kings. However, there were strong struggles for independence in Sweden, which led to kings being deposed and Sweden being ruled by imperial administrators for a time. As part of these struggles for independence, Wasa was forced to flee and came to Lübeck incognito in September 1519. At first he found shelter with Swedish merchants, who then arranged contact with the Lübeck mayor Nikolaus Brömse. The Lübeck council protected Wasa from an extradition request by the Danish king, and after eight months of residence he was able to return to Sweden in disguise and secret. The sculpture by Anders Zorn is a miniature version of a statue of Gustav I Wasa created and erected in the town of Mora. The Lübeck sculpture was erected on June 16, 1920 as a gift from the Swedish government to commemorate Gustav I Wasa's stay in Lübeck.

The Listening Chamber

Adjacent to the Audience Hall is a small elongated room, the so-called Hearing Chamber of the Town Hall. The name comes from the fact that judicial interrogations or negotiations with representatives of the citizenry and foreign envoys or messengers took place here. The room used to be decorated with murals depicting 15 events from the history of Lübeck. Unfortunately, these were painted over at the end of the 18th century when the room was remodeled. In the 19th century, the room was remodeled again and parts of the paintings were uncovered, but no further details are known. One of those paintings, still uncovered today, depicts the outcome of the Battle of Bornhöved on July 12, 1227, in which the army of Count Adolf IV, to which the Lübeck troops belonged, faced the army of the Danish king. The battle could be won only because of St. Mary Magdalene, who appeared in the form of a cloud in front of the sun, which blocked the view of the Lübeck troops. As was customary at that time, the troops from Lübeck asked for divine assistance, which they received and with which they were able to turn the luck of the battle. The outcome of the battle was the basis for the rise to the economic and political power center in the Baltic region for the following four centuries. It is believed that some of the other paintings under the plaster and paint are still preserved today, but uncovering them is not planned.

Thomas Mann

Paul Thomas Mann (born June 6, 1875 in Lübeck; † August 12, 1955 in Zurich, Switzerland) was one of the city's most famous sons, along with his brother Heinrich and Willy Brandt. Mann was a German writer and one of the most important storytellers of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929, which was largely due to the creation of his most famous novel, Buddenbrooks: Decline of a Family. Today, this novel is considered the first social novel in the German language of world renown and tells of the gradual decline of a wealthy merchant family over four generations, illustrating the social role and self-perception of the Hanseatic upper middle class. Thomas Mann was awarded honorary citizenship of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck on May 20, 1955.

Big stock exchange and small stock exchange

Another important place for a commercial metropolis was a garment house, i.e. a building where cloth merchants had a place to store and trade with the precious fabrics and furs from faraway countries. Later, this room was used for a while only as a granary and a meeting place for the clothiers. At the beginning of the 17th century Lübeck received the right to establish a stock exchange. In a stock exchange stood at certain times of the day, specialized traders in the function of a broker and mediated contacts between buyers and sellers of certain goods, but it also mediated loans and services. Since the Gewandhaus was no longer in real use, it was converted into a stock exchange in 1673, so that this part of the market no longer had to be held in the open air. However, the town hall part was then also used again and again for events and meetings and this has not changed until today, the two rooms Große Börse and Kleine Börse are today much used event rooms.

The equipment in the audience hall

Impressively at the edge of the room stands a 3.80m high stove made of cast iron by the Quint iron foundry from 1755, which was manufactured according to a design by the city architect J. A. Soherr. This could only be fired from the adjoining room so as not to disturb any meetings in the hall. Crystal chandeliers have been hanging from the ceiling since 1899. They illuminate the audience hall with electric light and weigh about 300 kg. Previously, there were gas chandeliers and before that quite classic crystal chandeliers with candlelight, which can be admired today in the St. Annen Museum.  Looking into the room, the five red, four-seater canapés (sofas) stand out. The one at the back is slightly larger and higher and was reserved for the four mayors. The other four on the sides were for the sixteen aldermen. The canapés are made of oak with rich rococo carving and red plush upholstery.

Der Bürgerschaftssaal

Passage to the  red hall