Monday, 22 March 2010

The Gold Office.

The Goudkantoor (Gold Office) was built in 1635 and was then known as the ‘Collectehuis’. It can be found in the Waagstraat complex behind the old City hall. Over the years it has been used for many different purposes. Presently in use as a café-restaurant, it was also once a ship museum, a tourist information office, and a part of City Hall.

This is a delightful building to see and stands amidst the modernity of the shopping district in the centre of Groningen. With a rich historical background this building was once actually used as a tax office for Groningen and the surrounding provinces. The Latin proverb on the front of the building ‘Date Caesari quae Caesaris’ means ‘Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s’ which referred to the collection of taxes.

The name the ‘Goudkantoor’ comes from the period when it was used as an assay office for gold and silver pieces, during the 19-th century. Here gold and silver objects were assessed for their quality and given a hallmark accordingly.

Built in the Dutch Renaissance style, this building has a very striking façade. The eye catching shell-like forms that appear above both doors and windows are said to be the handiwork of a sculptor from Bremen. Tests on the paint remains of the bricks (in red, ochre, gold and blue) are said to be the original colours. Motifs on the walls are from the 17-th century with origins from South Scandinavia, the German coast and the Low Countries. This kind of decoration was often used in preference to glass and Goblin tapestry.

Acquired at the beginning of the last century by the City Council of Groningen the original coat of arms of the province was immediately replaced by that of City of Groningen. This was seen as a great conquest as between Groningen and the province there has always been a great rivalry, as long as can be remembered.

© Alison Day
First published in the Connections magazine #8 July 2005, 
a publication of Connect International
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