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Architectural icon: City Hall
Culture

Architectural icon: City Hall

by Sarita Rao 2 min. 29.11.2021 From our online archive
Made from the stones of a 13th century Franciscan monastery in the neo-classical style favoured by Napoleon
Built using the stones from a Franciscan monastery located on the same site that was dismantled in 1829
Built using the stones from a Franciscan monastery located on the same site that was dismantled in 1829
Photo credit: Chris Karaba

Located in Place Guillaume II, the Luxembourg City Hall was built between 1830 and 1838 in neo-classical style. The stones of the old 13th century Franciscan monastery located on the same site were dismantled in 1829 and were used to construct the new building.

The colloquial name for Place Guillaume II is “Knuedler” which comes from the Luxembourgish word for knot, and refers to the knot worn in the belt of the Franciscan friars.

Given to the city by Napoleon

The City Hall you see today was designed by architect Justin Rémont. Following invasion during the French Revolutionary War, the monastery was seized and the French used the Grand Ducal Palace for central government purposes. Napoleon eventually gave the monastery site to the city.

The “empire” style architecture in France was a grandiose form of neoclassicism based on imperial Roman styles and was intended to idealise Napoleon. It was similar to the Biedermeier style in German-speaking countries, and you see this stately-style architecture in the City Hall, which resembles a small palace.

Construction continued during the Belgian Revolution when Luxembourg City was protected by a German garrison, and the only part of the Grand Duchy outside the control of rebel forces.

It was first used as a city council chaired by mayor François Scheffer in October 1838, but due to the revolution, the hall was not unveiled by the King and Grand Duke William II of Orange-Nassau until July 1844, when he also unveiled an equestrian statue of himself designed by Mercié, in Place Guillaume II (which was renamed in his honour).

National constitution and beginnings of the EU

In 1848 the City Hall hosted the constituent assembly which wrote Luxembourg’s new national constitution.

In 1931 the bronze lions which flank both sides of the outdoor stairs were added. They are the work of August Trémont who also created the lions that flank the Ducal crypt in Notre Dame Cathedral.

Simple interior is home to the municipal council Photo: Guy Jallay
Simple interior is home to the municipal council Photo: Guy Jallay

During the Second World War, the German occupiers converted the basement from market halls into offices, and on 8 August 1952 the building hosted the first meeting of the High Commission of the European Coal and Steel Community chaired by Jean Monnet.

Simple interior for the city’s mayor

Today, the building is the seat of city administration and houses the plenary hall of the municipal council and the offices of the Mayor of Luxembourg City. It also regularly hosts foreign dignitaries.

Inside, the design is simple with marble floors, stone columns and a sweeping staircase. There is very little ornamentation, but a grandeur is created by the high ceilings and impressively tall and wide doorways.

In December 2018 whilst excavating for a new underground car park, archaeologists found the foundations of the 13th century church and the Mansfeld chapel which contains numerous tombs and an unknown crypt.

The Luxembourg City Promenade tour includes Place Guillaume and City Hall. 


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