A brick facade in the style of the Weser Renaissance makes Bremen Town Hall one of the northernmost Renaissance masterpieces to be found in mainland Europe. Behind the facade lies a magnificent late- Gothic manifestation of civic pride. The rectangular building is decorated with medieval statuary, including life-size sandstone sculptures of Emperor Charlemagne and the seven electors, four prophets, and four wise men. The frieze above the building’s arcade is an allegory of human history.
THE STATUE OF ROLAND
This 33-ft (10-m) high statue of Roland has been a fixture of Bremen’s Market Square for some 600 years. A Christian knight and nephew of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor (r. 800-814), Roland symbolizes the town’s independence. His gaze is directed toward the cathedral, the residence of the bishop, who often sought to restrict Bremen’s autonomy. Roland’s sword of justice symbolizes the judiciary’s independence, and its engraved motto confirms the emperor’s edict, conferring town rights on Bremen. The statue was carved in 1404 by a member of the Parler family, a well-known clan of architects and sculptors. It was the prototype for 35 similar statues in other German towns.
Bremen’s Gothic Town Hall owes much of its splendor to its magnificent facade. Having been completely reworked by the architect Luder von Bentheim in 1595-1612, this facade is considered an outstanding example of Weser Renaissance architecture, the predominant style throughout the Weser region of northern Germany between 1520 and 1630. Nobles who had toured Italy returned home inspired by the Renaissance architecture they had seen and attempted to replicate it in their own designs. The ornamental gables and frieze along the arcade are both typical of this style, as are the richly sculptured projecting oriels.
To the west side of the Town Hall is the entrance to the Ratskeller. One of the oldest wine cellars in Germany, it has been sewing wine since 1405. Today, more than 650 wines can be sampled here, all of which are from German wine-growing regions and some of which are stored in decoratively carved wine casks. The Ratskeller’s atmosphere has inspired many artists and writers. For example, its setting provided the basis for Wilhelm Hauff’s book, Fantasies in the Bremer Ratskeller (1827), which later inspired the German Impressionist painter Max Slevogt to paint the humorous frescoes in the Hauff Room.
New laws were passed in the splendid Upper Hall, which occupies the entire first floor.
Model sailing ships
Suspended from the ceiling, these are reminiscent of Bremen’s role as a major port.
This Gothic wine cellar stores hundreds of different wines. Murals by Max Slevogt (1927) decorate the walls.
The original Gothic building was clad with a magnificent Weser Renaissance facade designed by Luder von Bentheim in 1595-1612.
The Judgment of Solomon
The 16th -century mural of Solomon’s court in the Upper Hall is a reference to the room’s dual function as a council chamber and a courtroom.
Adjoining the Gobelin Room, the elegant Fireplace Room owes its name to a high, French marble fireplace.
The room derives its charm from a large, exquisitely wrought tapestry produced by the 17th -century Gobelin workshop in Paris.
The lower room of the two-story Guldenkammer offers exquisite examples of Jugendstil (German Art Nouveau), created during a makeover by the artist Heinrich Vogeler (1872-1942) in 1905. The glided leather wallpaper dates from the 17th -century.
The architect Luder von Bentheim gave the Town Hall facade a local touch by adding a decorative Flemish-style stepped gable that is five stories high.
THE MUSICIANS OF BREMEN
On the northern side of the Town Hall is a bronze statue of the four animals — a donkey, dog, cat, and rooster — immortalized in the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale of The Musicians of Bremen. It was cast by Gerhard Marcks in 1951.
1251: Inauguration of Bremen’s first civic building, the domus coosulum.
1405-10: The dilapidated town hall is replaced by a new Gothic structure.
1595-1612: The structure is renovated and a new facade built overlooking the Market Square.
1620: The Bacchus and what is now the Hauff Room for the storage of wine are built.
1905: Completion of the Golden Chamber in German Art Nouveau style.
1909-13: Addition of the New Town Hall on the east side of the building.
1927: Completion of the murals in the Hauff Room.