Stari Most (Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Stari Most, the Old Bridge
Photo by Dennis Jarvis

Widely considered to be one of the most exemplary pieces of Islamic architecture in the Balkans, Stari Most, commonly referred to as the Old Bridge, was an Ottoman bridge in the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina originally built in the 16th-century. Stari Most crossed the river Neretva connecting two parts of the city, and was destroyed on 9 November 1993 by Croat forces during the Croat-Bosniak War. Mimar Hajruddin, a pupil of the famous architect Sinan, built the Old Bridge in 1566.

The Old Bridge stood for 427 years as one of the country’s most recognizable, visited, and photographed landmarks. The humpbacked arch had an opening of 27 meters, and a width of 4 meters. It was 29 meters long and was flanked by two towers, the Halebija Tower on the right bank and the Tara Tower on the left bank.

The bridge that now crosses the Neretva, opened on 23 July, 2004, is an exact replica, built to replicate the original in every possible detail to insure that people may safely cross in style for the next 400 years. The reconstruction of the Old Bridge was based on incredibly detailed documentation of the site and recreated the bridge as closely as possible to its original construction. The use of authentic materials and traditional techniques made the new Old Bridge a very good example of what the old, Old bridge was before its destruction

Due largely to the strategic location of Mostar, Suleiman the Magnificent, the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, ordered construction of the stone bridge in 1557. Since the construction was done on the demand of the Sultan and was extremely important, there is a macabre story attached. It is said that the Sultan told Mimar Hayruddin  if the bridge collapsed after the supports were removed, he would kill him. Though this motivated Hayruddin, he is said to have started to dig his own grave the day the supports were removed. Luckily for him, the bridge stood and his life was spared.

Mostar developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town, and has been well-known for centuries for its traditional Turkish houses and its famous bridge. As well as being a hugely popular tourist attraction, the bridge also hosts an annual traditional diving competition held. It’s an old tradition to jump off the bridge (not one I would recommend if you’re not a local) and was first documented in 1664.

Stari Most Facts

  • Stari Most translates exactly to Old Bridge.
  • Before being destroyed by men, the bridge was slowly suffering from erosion.
  • The original bridge opened in 1566, and the replacement in 2004.
  • The Old Bridge, and the tourism it brought, is credited with development and continued prosperity in Mostar.
  • The reconstruction was financed by an international committee managed by the World Bank and UNESCO.
  • It took nine years to complete the original bridge.