The facade of the City Hall dates from 1595. Several Pilgrims were married in the City Hall, amongst them William Bradford and Dorothy May. Civil marriage was a Dutch invention, introduced because nearly half the population did not belong to the state church. The pilgrims introduced it in America, following the Leiden example, because in their first years they had no preacher.
Seat of the city government
The Leiden town hall stood on Breestraat as early as the Middle Ages. In 1595/96 it was given a new facade in Renaissance style. The city government wanted to show the city's new prosperity. In 1574 Leiden had been besieged by the Spanish. Many citizens died of hunger and plague. Nonetheless Leiden withstood the siege. The city was relieved on 3 October 1574. Several parts of the town hall facade commemorate this Siege and Relief of Leiden. The town hall was largely lost during a devastating fire in 1929. The façade was rebuilt, but the building behind was completely new.