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Neoclassical Town hall

Vilnius town hall was first mentioned in 1432. Initially built in the Gothic it has been reconstructed many times since. The present Town Hall was rebuilt in the neoclassical style after a design by architect Laurynas Gucevičius in 1799. It has remained unchanged since then. Its Gothic cellars have been preserved and are available to visit.

Nowadays, it is used for representational purposes as well as during the visits of foreign state officials and rulers, including President George Bush and Queen Elizabeth II.

The City Hall Square (Lithuanian: Rotušės aikštė) at the end of the Pilis Street is a traditional venue for trades and events in the city. Major annual events, such as Kaziukas Fair or the decoration of the main Christmas tree, as well as various concerts, celebrations of the important dates and other attractions take place here.

History

As far back as the early fifteenth century, the square was surrounded by small shops. The number of shops increased even more along with the expansion of the city and the development of trades. The shops were mainly selling salt, iron and meat products. It is known that all of these shops were not allowed to be sold, donated or transferred freely as everything was strictly regulated by the law. For instance, Jewish butchers were prohibited from building their shops both on the urban market and on Vokiečių (German) Street. It was also prohibited to buy products on the roadsides and resell them later in the city at higher prices. This measure was applied to avoid the price increase, especially in the case of any shortage in food products, such as grain. Any violations were punished with monetary fines, flogging, imprisonment or confiscation of merchandise. Confiscated goods were donated to various refuges and hospitals.

In 1387 Vilnius was granted the Magdeburg Rights. These rights granted a right for merchants on the routes through Vilnius to stop in the capital and to sell their goods in the market. In 1503, due to the growing number of foreign traders the city built a special guest house for them to stay, which was situated on the site of the present National Philharmonic. They had rooms for merchants and their retinues, as well as premises to store goods, rooms for horses, carts and sledges. Strict regulations were imposed on traders and guilds regarding the construction of their market places and participation in the city’s events.

However, fighting against resellers was often a real challenge: powerful owners of jurisdictions would not always obey the law. Scottish and Jewish tradesmen in the seventeenth century were forbidden to trade in golden, silver, silk and semi-silk fringes and edgings, but this prohibition was not applied to the same goods produced in Naples and Frankfurt. Many attractions and events were organised in the square such as the bears’ performances, travelling acrobats, comedians, and various troupes. The mysteries or semi-religious performances were also popular. The City Hall Square was the place where various celebrations were announced: meetings with important guests, foreign rulers, and festivals of local noblemen families.

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