City Hall: a firm symbol of freedom and prosperity.
Every city has its own symbol of freedom. In Vitebsk – it is City Hall. Being a cultural monument of Vitebsk, late XVI century, the building has survived until our times, and despite a great number of twists, turns, prepared by the history, now the City Hall is undeniable and the most important landmark in Vitebsk.
Every city has its own history. And Vitebsk is no exception
in this context: it differs not only with deep tradition and long history, but also with notable architectural monuments. They give a special elegance and chic to tourist Vitebsk.
Once arrived in the city, you will be amazed by its originality and unique character and come across the idea with astonishment that you can see a lot of interesting in Vitebsk. Vitebsk site and a leisurely walk along the city streets will tell about the local attractions.
Particular attention is paid by the City Hall among numerous architectural monuments of Vitebsk. The story of construction of the building is rather interesting. It cannot be constructed in any city since in the Middle Ages it was a symbol of freedom and independence. Therefore, the City Hall was erected only in that locality, which became the owner of the Magdeburg right.
On March 17, 1597 Polish King and Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund III Vasa granted it to Vitebsk. Namely this date is related to start of construction of the City Hall. Soon a wooden building appeared at the city square, which located near Vzgorsky castle.
As the history of the city of Vitebsk testifies, the City Hall had been short-lived: it was destroyed in 1623. The reason is simple: Vitebsk was deprived of Magdeburg right immediately after the uprising of the city folk.
But anyway the City Hall was destined to again become precious ornament of the city. However, not once, in 1644. Its restoration is associated with the return of Magdeburg right to Vitebsk for citizens` outstanding merits in the war against Russia. Then, at the city square, a new two-storey building with a high roof and octagonal tower of observation appeared, where a dome with a spire was installed.
The ground floor of the City Hall was brick-built, and above, starting from the first floor, the building was wooden. The side facades on both sides were joined by an inn with its buildings. It should be noted that the patio and the floor on the basement was paved with cobblestones – it was detected during the restoration work that took place in the building during the second half of XX century.
The pages of the history of Vitebsk repeatedly said about fires, which destroyed the building. So it was in 1708, 1733 and 1752 – the City Hall burned, but soon rose again from the ashes.
Since 1772, when Vitebsk became part of Russia, Magdeburg right lost its relevance, and the City Hall was used for the needs of the city. At one time the tower was a fire patrol watch tower. The building also met Duma and City Council. Later, here moved the court and a bank. Then, the City Hall was transferred to the jurisdiction of Police Department.
In 1775 the building was reconstructed once more This time, citizens faced the updated City Hall, built of brick. Above the central facade a four tiers tower with a hip roof raised. Vitebsk attraction was richly decorated with pilasters, intricate profiles, volutes and cornices, which added a special solemnity and a sense of luxury to the building, which are so characteristic forthe Baroque and Classical style.
Later, in 1833, the City Hall was again changed: instead of the tent on top a tower with a spire, and a bell and a large clock appeared with four dials facing to the four cardinal points. In Soviet times, the tower was decorated with a five-pointed star.
By the way, not only the outlook was changed, the layout of the City Hall was also improved. Thanks to this tourist Vitebsk became the owner of the unique zest, inherent to it only, raisin.
As the history of the city testifies, it was only the beginning of transformation of the main architectural attractions in Vitebsk. In 1911 one more reconstruction teethed. As a result the appearance had changed: the finished second floor had broken radically and changed the original ideal proportions of the City Hall. The ease and grace had disappeared. A portico attached to the main entrance and the semicircular windows on the first floor had given greater massiveness to the City Hall, and the appearance of the building created a terrible view of firmness and stability.
During the Great Patriotic War, the main attraction of Vitebsk became a place of sorrow and grief. A gallows was fixed in front of the City Hall on the square where Vitebsk partisans and members of the underground were executed. Today there is a memorial sign at this place.
In the XX century construction works in the City Hall were carried out repeatedly. The building underwent restoration in 1913, 1944, 1970s and 1980s. By the way, in the result of the reconstruction the northern part of the City Hall was disassembled and rebuilt, and the inner courtyard of the building became part of the building. During the construction the appearance of the building was slightly modified. The main facade is decorated with pilasters, and in the space between the first and second floors a profiled cornice appeared. Two balconies also decorated the first floor of the building with openwork railing. It was all done with only one purpose – to smooth the apparent massiveness of the building and make the City Hall more light, majestic and solemn.
During the construction works people managed to find particular fragments of masonry dated the XVII century, which miraculously has survived to our time and is particularly valuable in the life of tourist Vitebsk. There is an assumption that they belonged to the front of the City Hall, rebuilt in 1644. However, museum collections were supplemented by other equally valuable exhibits: police files were found dated 1806-1846, smoking pipes, a unique collection of tableware. The most interesting – a salute cannon was found by (about XVIII century), which bursts accompanied various celebrations and festivals of that time.
On July 12, 1997, in honour of the 400th anniversary, 2 meters coat of arms of Vitebsk cast in bronze decorated the main facade of the City Hall. Now it adorns the lobby of the building.
Today the City Hall hosts regional museum with unique exhibits decorating numerous showrooms since 1924.
By the way, the City Hall is particularly amazing at night. Illuminated by decorative lighting, the building seemed a steadfast symbol of history and independence, always teaching the citizens and guests of Vitebsk about the need to know and remember the history of the place where being born and raised.
After visiting the City Hall, you can add a pleasant impression of acquaintance with Vitebsk. It's enough just to walk down Suvorov street , enjoy the melodious silence of Mayakovsky Park, or just to dream at the fountain "Three Rivers Junction". Hearty ring of the Resurrection Church bells will awake quivering feeling and solemn mood. More detailed information about these facilities can be found at the city portal VitebskCity.by.
Address of the City Hall: 36 Lenin str.