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Old Town Hall: The Secret Place of the Hungarian Holy Crown

One of the most characteristic architectural monuments of the City of Debrecen, is the Town Hall, a classicist building which stands on Piac street.

The building was home to elected city officials including the judiciary, and other officers of elected bodies. The Old town hall has been characterized by frugality for centuries. Until the 19th century, the city spent relatively little on “ordinary” (city-owned) houses and their decoration. 

The first town hall was built in 1531 by expansion from the construction of single-storey residential buildings over the centuries. In 1802, the city leaders wanted to build a new town hall, but due to lack of money, neither the plans ofMihály Péchy nor Ferenc Povolny was realized. 

The construction began in 1825 and the keys of the impressive tympanum-arcade building were handed over to the town in 1843. In keeping with the puritanical taste of classicism, a single ornament adorns the tympanum, the coat of arms of the city. The prison was on the mezzanine floor and in the basement, while upstairs could be reached by two separate staircases besides the main, decorated staircase. The offices, meeting rooms, and the mayor’s service apartment were located there. The famous book printing house was also set up inside the building. 

In 1849, Lajos Kossuth, Governor-President of the Kingdom of Hungary during the revolution of 1848–49,  lived in the building with his family, and the office of the Defense Committee also operated here. The Hungarian Holy Crown was kept here in the “secret archive” until the end of the threat of war. After that, the crown was returned to Buda Castle.

Debrecen old town hall from arial perspective
Image Source Fortepan: Town Hall Debrecen (1908)

The city grew out of the one-storey Town Hall in 1888. It was demolished to build a new building, but the plans – due to the lack of the agreement and the money – were unused for three decades. The building was remodeled. It received a simplified driveway and the previously open arcades on the ground floor were closed with a wall and window to create a room behind it. It was connected to the building of the adjacent tax office by a hanging corridor, which is called  “bridge of sighs”.

Debrecen Old town hall
Image Source Fortepan: Town Hall Debrecen (1954)

Today, the Old Town House is still located at 20 Piac street, however, the daily administration works of the city’s inhabitants are handled in the New Town Hall located in Kálvin Square.

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