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Prof. Dr. Dr.h.c. Machiel Kiel, University of Utrecht, Holland (ICE member), has prepared and provided to arch. Manfredo Romeo, General Engineering Workgroup, an historical outline of Mostar town that is undoubtedly an useful reference for the current work and that is here next fully reported:

2.1 Mostar and its Bridge

"The town of Mostar must have emerged in the first half of the 15th century as a hamlet of some houses on the east bank of the Neretva, on the road leading from the merchant city of Dubrovnik into the Balkan interior. In 1452 a document issued by the Dubrovnik chancery mentions at this place: "duo castelli al ponte de Neretva". In 1468 the place became part of the Ottoman Empire. The oldest preserved Ottoman land registration and taxation register (T.D. 5 in the Prime Minister's Ottoman Archive in Istanbul) from 1477 (H.882) for the first time mentions Mostar by its present name and describes it as a settlement of 19 households of civilians, all Christians, a garrison of 25 men, Muslims from various places in the Balkans, guarding the castle. The settlement was called "Pazar-i Mostar" with the second name "Köprü Hisar" (Castle of the Bridge). This settlement, because of its position on the main road and because of the lasting peace established by the Ottomans, was to develop quickly. The register T.D. 167 (also in Istanbul) from 1519 has it with 85 Christians and 4 Muslim civilian households, beside the garrison. The oldest mention of a mosque and a hot bath (hamâm) is from 1506, a foundation of the governor of Hercegovina, Sinaneddin Yusuf. Between 1512-1520 Sultan Selim I had a small mosque (mesdjid) constructed near the old bridge for the need of the garrison.

In the course of the 16th century Mostar as an urban settlement exploded, becoming by far the largest town of the Hercegovina and completely super-seeding the medieval borough of Blagaj nearby, but situated away from the main road. The register Kuyudu Kadine No 8 (Ankara, General Directorate of the Cadaster) from 1585 mentions 513 households, almost all Muslims, living in 16 town quarters (mahalle) called after the mosques or mesdjids that constituted their focal point. Only a few Catholic Christians lived in the town, scattered over the Muslim wards. In 1630 they numbered 10 households. Their numbers were to climb up to 78 households in 1813, and further, at an increasing speed.

In 1558 the local Ottoman grandee Karadjoz Mehmed Bey, a brother of the Grand Vizier in Istanbul, constructed in the expanding town the largest and most harmonious mosque of the Herzegovina, together with theological college, a library a caravanserai and a kitchen for the poor and the travellers, as well as a number of primary schools, mesdjids caravanserais and bridges in places in the Mostar district. The replacement of the highly uncomfortable medieval wooden bridge on chains, which had been reconstructed by Sultan Mehmed Faith between 1468 and 1481,must be placed in connection with the upsurge of Mostar in the 1550s and '60s. The present bridge was constructed on order and by means of Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent upon request of the Mostar population, and the mentioned Karadjoz Mehemed Bey was responsible for the buildings accounts. According to an inscription in Ottoman, situated on the bridge before its recent destruction, it was finished in the year 974 of the Hidjra, which is between 19 July 1566 and 7 July 1567. The date of the completion was also given on an inscription of six half verses in Turkish of which the last line contained the date in the form of a chronogram: "kudret Kemeri" (Arch of Power), in which each letter contains a numerical value, the sum of which gives 974. This inscription is lost but its content is preserved in the Zbornik Enveri Kadic,preserved in the Gazi Husrev Bey Library in Sarajevo. It was also note in the Seyahatnâme of the 17th century Ottoman traveller Evliya Çelebi.

A letter in the copy books of the imperial state council of the Sultanic government in Istanbul (Mühimme Defter) from beginning of April 1568 shows that the bridge was finished recently and that its architect Hayruddin, who was now ordered to go to Makarska on the Dalmatian coast and oversee the construction of a castle there. Hayruddin is known as pupil of the great ottoman architect Sinan. The contemporaneous lists of Sinan's works mention mosque of Karadjoz Bey in Mostar as being designed by the grand master himself, the only one in Bosnia-Herzegovina. A still preserved Ottoman inscription on the left bridgehead mentions an important repair in the year 1150 (1737/38). An ottoman document in Istanbul, dated beginning March 1738 gives the accounts of this repair, made necessary by an explosion of gunpowder store (Cebe-hane).

In the 17th and 18th centuries Mostar continued to grow and developed, also spreading across the river, where the dates of construction of the new mosques still mark the steps. Mostar in that period grew into an important Muslim cultural centre, producing a number of poets and writers in the Oriental languages. In the second part of the same period Serbs from the surrounding villages began to settle in Mostar, shortly afterwards followed by Croats. In the first half of the 19th century both groups were to have their churches and other institutions. In 1857 the Russian historian Aleksander Gilferding calculated the Mostar population as 1500 Muslim households, 500 Orthodox households and 300 households of Catholics. During the Austrian-Hungarian period (1878-1918) continued to develop rapidly with many new administrative buildings in the old town and the lay out of a modern new city on the West Bank. The Baedeker Guidebook Österreich-Ungarn, Leipzig 1913, has in Mostar 16.400 inhabitants, of which just less than half were Muslims, still having 30 mosques. After 1918 a new period for the history of Mostar began, leading to further change and expansion and finally to the catastrophic war of 1992/95, from which wounds, with help of countries all over the world, it is now rapidly recovering."


Arch. Romeo and General Engineering are grateful to Prof. Kiel for his precious contribute, and will be thankful to anyone that will provide any additional historical documentation about Mostar and its Bridge.

author of the text: Prof. Dr. Dr.h.c. Machiel Kiel, University of Utrecht, Holland (ICE member)
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