The Tallinn Town Hall is at least 700 years old

Tallinn’s Town Hall celebrates 700th anniversary with a postage stamp

Tallinn’s Town Hall celebrates 700th anniversary with a postage stamp

It’s the oldest town hall in Northern Europe and the only one built in the Gothic style

Omniva, as the Estonian postal services company is known, released yesterday a postage stamp commemorating the first recorded mention of Tallinn’s Town Hall on 1322, or 700 years ago. Although the Gothic building was completed in 1404, its origins date much earlier, which makes the seat of local government the oldest such building in all of Scandinavia and the Baltic region.

Testament to Tallinn’s Hanseatic heritage

The first written record of Tallinn Town Hall comes from the town's real estate register. It mentions the town hall in 1322 as a consistorium (a meeting place), marking the location of a stone barn "below the town hall". As back then there were no street names yet, so the location of buildings was defined by known objects, including the town hall.

The town hall mentioned at that time was part of the first floor and basement of the current town hall, which was expanded in several stages during the 14th century. The new main floor, archway and tower were added at the beginning of the 15th century, and the town hall has been preserved in this form to this day. This also makes it the only Gothic town hall preserved in Northern Europe.

In medieval Europe, the town hall was a symbol of the city's self-government and the embodiment of civic pride. Namely, the birth of the medieval city was marked by city law, with which the lord of the land gave the merchant community the right to choose a council from among themselves and to rule the city themselves. As a symbol of this, the council erected a town hall in the most important place of the city, the market square.

The monument is an important reminder of the autonomy struggles that European cities have always been engaged in vis-à-vis central authorities. In a way, this tradition continues until today, carried in spirit and institutionalized by bodies like the European Committee of the Regions.

The Estonian capital’s town hall is also a reminder of the merchant and democratic power and heritage of Tallinn (called Reval back then) as part of the Hanseatic League. The monumental value of the building has been recognized by UNESCO, which declared the old quarter of Tallinn (including the town hall) as a World Heritage Site in 1997.

In July and August, the Town Hall is open to visitors from the cellar to the tower.



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