Discover History: Market Square
History of the Market Square
12th century: first trading activity
The location of the first marketplace on the banks of the Chemnitz, referred to as a trading square in 1143, is still unknown. The current structure of the city gradually emerged after 1180.
At the centre of the town was the market, first mentioned in 1264, which would be called the “Big Market” or the “Main Market” in later centuries.
15th - 18th century: how the market developed
Its most important function was as a place where goods could be exchanged. Along with the traditional annual fair on St James’ Day (25 July), a second fair was held in the week following All Saints’ Day (1 November) from 1412. A row of town houses with open, vaulted arcades on the ground floor were used for commerce from the 15th century.
The market played an important role in communication in the city and in embodying its power, but it also had a legal function. It was the site of both the city’s main well and the pillory.
The square and the adjoining streets were lined with the most important structures in the city’s administrative and spiritual-cultural life: the Town Hall, Town Church, cloth hall, Latin school, the town office, apothecary, and several inns. Of these, the Gothic St James Church (1370-1412), the town hall complex and the baroque façade of the Siegertsches Haus (1737-41) have survived to the present day.
Destruction and reconstruction in the 19th and 20th centuries
Significant structures that bore witness to the city’s preindustrial development had already been demolished before the end of the 19th century. In their place, three statues were erected in 1899 – Kaiser Wilhelm I, Otto von Bismarck and Wilhelm von Moltke. Like virtually every other structure in the city, they fell victim to the events of the Second World War and the subsequent rebuilding of the city.
The western side, where the Siegertsches Haus is located, was rebuilt as early as 1954 and completed with the “Watchmen’s House” in 2002, the same year that the rebuilding of the southern side of the marketplace was also concluded.