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Town Hall

A Town hall, in many countries throughout the world, is the administrative headquarters and a central meeting-place for a town.

Town hall - a square in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania.

The Town Hall Square is, of course, the traditional centre of trade and events in the Vilnius city. As far back as early 15th century, the square was bordered by small shops. With the expansion of the city and the development of trade the number of small shops was increasing. Most of them were selling salt, iron and meat products. It is known that all of these shops could not have been sold, donated or transferred wilfully as everything was strictly regulated. Trading on the Town Hall Square was restricted by a number of regulations such as the prohibition for the Jewish butchers to build their butcher’s shops both on the urban market and on Vokieciu Street. It was also prohibited to buy up products on the roadsides and sell them later in the city at a higher price. It was a measure to avoid the season of high prices, especially if there was a shortage of some product such as grain in deficit[?] times. Any violations were punished with monetary fines, flogging, imprisonment and confiscation of merchandise. By the way, confiscated goods were donated to various refuges and hospitals.

However, fighting with resellers was often a real challenge: powerful owners of jurisdictions would not always obey the orders of the rulers. For some reasons, Scottish and Jewish tradesmen in the 17th century were forbidden to trade in golden, silver, silk and semi-silk fringes and edgings, but this prohibition was not applied to the said articles produced in manufactories of Naples and Frankfurt.

It is also interesting that following the example of a foreign city Vilnius was granted the Magdeburg Rights. According to these rights, merchants from other countries travelling on the routes through Vilnius were not entitled to go round the city and they had to stop in the capital and to sell the goods they had brought to local buyers, if any wished to buy them. In 1503, the city was obligated to build a special guest house so that foreign traders will have some place to stay. Such guest hose was bult on the site of the nowaday National Philharmonic. They had rooms for merchants and their retinues to accommodate and some premises to store their goods as well as room for horses, carts and sledge. Strict regulations were also imposed on traders and guilds regarding the construction of their market places and participation in the city’s events.

Many attractions and events were organised in the square such as the performances of bears, travelling acrobats, comedians, and various troupes. The mysteries, or semi-religious performances, were also rather popular.

The Town Hall Square was the place where various celebrations were announced such as meetings with important guests and foreign rulers and family festivals of local noblemen.

Such traditions survived up to the present: major annual fairs are still held in this square, Christmas tree is decorated here, various concerts and other attractions are organised as well as celebrations of the important dates of the state.

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