UNESCO World Heritage Site #207: Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen

UNESCO World Heritage Site #207: Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen
UNESCO World Heritage Site #207: Town Hall and Roland on the Marketplace of Bremen

From the World Heritage inscription:

The Bremen Town Hall and Roland are an outstanding ensemble representing civic autonomy and market freedom, as developed in the Holy Roman Empire. The town hall represents the medieval Saalgeschossbau-type of hall construction, as well as being an outstanding example of the so-called Weser Renaissance in northern Germany. The Bremen Roland is the most representative and one of the oldest of the Roland statues erected as a symbol of commercial rights and freedom.

The city of Bremen is situated in north-western Germany, on the river Weser. The site of the medieval town has an oblong form, limited by the river on the south side and by the Stadtgraben, the water moat of the ancient defence system, on the north side. The town hall is situated in the centre of the eastern part of the old city area, separating the market in the south from the Domshof, the cathedral square in the north. The statue of Roland is located in the centre of the market place. The town hall is placed between two churches: the Dom (cathedral church of St Peter) is located on the east side, and the Liebfrauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) on the west. Across the market is the Schütting, the seat of the ancient merchant guilds. On the east side of the market is the Modernist building for the municipal institutions, the Haus der Bürgerschaft, built in the 1960s.

The World Heritage site consists of the town hall and the Roland statue; the buffer zone encloses the market and the cathedral square. The town hall has two parts: the Old Town Hall, on the north side of the market place, which was built in 1405-9, and renovated in 1595-1612, and the New Town Hall that was built in the early 20th century as an addition facing the cathedral square.

The town hall (rathaus in German) of Bremen is a very interesting world heritage site. Through sheer luck, the building was untouched in WWII. It was expanded significantly in 20th Century, so a large part of it is somewhat new. The old part of the building, however, is quite well preserved and is a great example of a medieval town hall.

The facade of the building is fine enough, but in many respects it is outshone by the merchants building across the square and it is dominated in size by the cathedral next door. The real treasure of the building can be found inside in the upstairs of the old part of the town hall.

The main meeting area is a fantastic display of old German art, woodworking and Hanseatic symbols. Many of the large pantings date back hundreds of years and all tell a part of the story of the city. One of the paintings is entirely text and is a mixture of Old German, Flemish and English. A sort of pidegon language used by Hanseatic traders in the region.

The ground floor of the old building is a museum and the cellar is now a restaurant. The new town hall is still used as such by the city of Bremen.

Part of this site, and it is included in its official name, is the statue of Roland in the front of the building. I knew very little of the story of Roland before I arrived, but you can find statues of Roland all over Europe. He became a symbol of independent cities of the Hanseatic League, which is why his statue is featured so prominently in Bremen.

View my complete list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.