Stari Most

For other uses, see Stari Most (disambiguation).
Stari Most
Carries Pedestrians
Crosses Neretva
Locale Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Official name Stari most
Design Arch
Total length 29 metres
Width 4 metres
Clearance below 20 metres at mid-span
Opened 1566/1567/2004
Official name Old Bridge Area of the Old City of Mostar
Type Cultural
Criteria vi
Designated 2005 (29th session)
Reference no. 946
State Party  Bosnia and Herzegovina
Region Europe and North America

Stari Most (English: Old Bridge) is a 16th-century Ottoman bridge in the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina that crosses the river Neretva and connects the two parts of the city. The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 by Croat forces during the Croat–Bosniak War. Subsequently, a project was set in motion to reconstruct it, and the rebuilt bridge opened on 23 July 2004.

One of the country's most recognizable landmarks, it is considered an exemplary piece of Balkan Islamic architecture. It was designed by Mimar Hayruddin, a student and apprentice of the famous architect Mimar Sinan.[1][2][3][4]


Stari Most 2008

The bridge spans the Neretva river in the old town of Mostar, the city to which it gave the name. The city is the fifth-largest in the country; it is the center of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the unofficial capital of Herzegovina. The Stari Most is hump-backed, 4 metres (13 ft 1 in) wide and 30 metres (98 ft 5 in) long, and dominates the river from a height of 24 m (78 ft 9 in). Two fortified towers protect it: the Halebija tower on the northeast and the Tara tower on the southwest, called "the bridge keepers" (natively mostari).

The arch of the bridge was made of local stone known as tenelija. The shape of the arch is the result of numerous irregularities produced by the deformation of the intrados (the inner line of the arch). The most accurate description would be that it is a circle of which the centre is depressed in relation to the string course.

Instead of foundations, the bridge has abutments of limestone linked to wing walls along the waterside cliffs. Measuring from the summer water level of 40.05 m (131 ft 5 in), abutments are erected to a height of 6.53 metres (21 ft 5 in), from which the arch springs to its high point. The start of the arch is emphasized by a molding 0.32 metres (1 ft 1 in) in height. The rise of the arch is 12.02 metres (39 ft 5 in).


Bridge photographed 1974

The original bridge was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557 to replace an older wooden suspension bridge of dubious stability. Construction began in 1557 and took nine years: according to the inscription the bridge was completed in 974 AH, corresponding to the period between 19 July 1566 and 7 July 1567. Tour directors used to state that the bridge was held together with metal pins and mortar made from the protein of egg whites.[5] Little is known of the building of the bridge, and all that has been preserved in writing are memories and legends and the name of the builder, Mimar Hayruddin (student of Mimar Sinan, the Ottoman architect). Charged under pain of death to construct a bridge of such unprecedented dimensions, the architect reportedly prepared for his own funeral on the day the scaffolding was finally removed from the completed structure. Upon its completion it was the widest man-made arch in the world.

Original Stari Most photographed in the 1970s.

According to the 17th century Turkish traveler Evliya Çelebi, the name Mostar itself means "bridge-keeper." As Mostar's economic and administrative importance grew with the growing presence of Ottoman rule, the precarious wooden suspension bridge over the Neretva gorge required replacement. The old bridge on the river "...was made of wood and hung on chains," wrote the Ottoman geographer Katip Çelebi, and it "...swayed so much that people crossing it did so in mortal fear". In 1566, Mimar Hayruddin, a student of the great architect Sinan, designed Stari Most during the reign of Suleyman the Magnificent. The bridge was said to have cost 300,000 Drams (silver coins) to build. The two-year construction project was supervised by Karagoz Mehmet Bey, Sultan Suleyman's son-in-law and the patron of Mostar's most important mosque complex, called the Hadzi Mehmed Karadzozbeg Mosque.

The bridge, 28 meters long and 20 meters high (90' by 64'), quickly became a wonder in its own time. The famous traveler Evliya Çelebi wrote in the 17th century that: the bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other. ...I, a poor and miserable slave of Allah, have passed through 16 countries, but I have never seen such a high bridge. It is thrown from rock to rock as high as the sky.[6]


The temporary cable bridge

The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 during the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina. After its destruction a temporary cable bridge was erected in its place.

Newspapers based in Sarajevo reported that more than 60 shells hit the bridge before it collapsed.[7] After the destruction of the Stari Most, a spokesman for the Croats admitted that they deliberately destroyed it, claiming that it was of strategic importance.[8] Academics have argued that the bridge held little strategic value and that its shelling was an example of deliberate cultural property destruction. Andras Riedlmayer terms the destruction an act of "killing memory", in which evidence of a shared cultural heritage and peaceful co-existence were deliberately destroyed.[7]

Both sides of the city remained linked until the bridge´s reconstruction thanks to the Spanish and Portuguese military engineers assigned to United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) mission.


Stari Most undergoing reconstruction in 2003.

After the end of the war, plans were raised to reconstruct the bridge. The World Bank, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund formed a coalition to oversee the reconstruction of the Stari Most and the historic city centre of Mostar.[9] Additional funding was provided by Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Croatia and the Council of Europe Development Bank, as well as the Bosnian government.[9] In October 1998, UNESCO established an international committee of experts to oversee the design and reconstruction work.[9] It was decided to build a bridge as similar as possible to the original, using the same technology and materials.[9] The bridge was re-built with local materials by Er-Bu Construction Corp a Turkish company, using Ottoman construction techniques.[10] Tenelia stone from local quarries was used and Hungarian army divers recovered stones from the original bridge from the river below.[9] Reconstruction commenced on 7 June 2001. The reconstructed bridge was inaugurated on 23 July 2004, with the cost estimated to be 15.5 million US dollars.[9]


Diver at Stari Most
Video of a dive

Stari Most diving is a traditional annual competition in diving organized every year in mid summer (end of July). It has been done 477 times as of 2013.[11] It is traditional for the young men of the town to leap from the bridge into the Neretva. As the Neretva is very cold, this is a very risky feat and only the most skilled and best trained divers will attempt it. The practice dates back to the time the bridge was built, but the first recorded instance of someone diving off the bridge is from 1664. In 1968 a formal diving competition was inaugurated and held every summer. The first person to jump from the bridge since it was re-opened was Enej Kelecija.[12]

Turkish lyrics English translation
Bugün duyduğun haberler
Sana utanç veriyor
Bugün din ve ırk uğruna
Cinayet işleniyor
Mostar Köprüsü çökmüş
Neretva ne kadar üzgün
Kim bilir
Today the news that you heard
Makes you feel ashamed
May be
Today for the sake of religion and race
Murder is being committed
May be
Mostar Bridge has been collapsed
How sad is Neretva
Who knows

See also


  1. Balić, Smail (1973). Kultura Bošnjaka: Muslimanska Komponenta. Vienna. pp. 32–34. ISBN 9783412087920.
  2. Čišić, Husein. Razvitak i postanak grada Mostara. Štamparija Mostar. p. 22. ISBN 9789958910500.
  3. Stratton, Arthur (1972). Sinan. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. ISBN 9780684125824.
  4. Jezernik, Božidar (1995). "Qudret Kemeri: A Bridge between Barbarity and Civilization". The Slavonic and East European Review. 73 (95): 470–484. JSTOR 4211861.
  5. "Croats destroy historic bridge". The Independent. London, UK. Retrieved 18 July 2015.
  7. 1 2 Coward, Martin (2009). Urbicide: The Politics of Urban Destruction. London: Routledge. pp. 1–7. ISBN 0-415-46131-6.
  8. Borowitz, Albert (2005). Terrorism for self-glorification: the herostratos syndrome. Kent State University Press. p. 65. ISBN 0-87338-818-6.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Armaly, Maha; Blasi, Carlo; Hannah, Lawrence (2004). "Stari Most: rebuilding more than a historic bridge in Mostar". Museum International. 56 (4): 6–17. doi:10.1111/j.1468-0033.2004.00044.x.
  11. "Mostar". Retrieved 5 October 2013.
  12. "Chránený klenot" (in Slovak). Pluska. 15 Dec 2006.
  13. Retrieved: 2014-11-20
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Coordinates: 43°20′13.56″N 17°48′53.46″E / 43.3371000°N 17.8148500°E / 43.3371000; 17.8148500

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