The oldest written testament of the existence of
medieval Mostar date back to the 15th century, prior to the invasion of the Ottoman Turks.
The testament was the work of Herceg Stjepan Radivoj (the Duke of Herzegovina).
Mostar developed at a rapid pace, eventually taking the primacy of Blagaj. Mostar
developed into a strategic and commercial hub becoming the meeting point of roads from the
sea connecting the south to the north and northern regions to the western regions.
The first medieval bridge in Mostar was a wooden suspension bridge which was very unstable
and of fragile construction. When The Turks invaded and conquered Mostar, they used the
old wooden bridge for crossing from the east bank of the Neretva river to the west bank.
(It is rumoured that the bridge swayed so much, that to cross it, one would be taking his
life in his own hands). There are some notes pertaining to the construction of the wooden
bridge but as to their whereabouts is another matter, we know that the bridge was made
from wood without any pilasters and was suspended from chains. Remains of this bridge are
still visible on the left bank (east) and south of the Old Bridge just below the museum
(Zavicajni Muzej) Today we can find ruins from that era (that is, prior to the
Turkish invasion). The foundation walls used for carrying the chains are still visible on
the left (east) bank of the river, on the right (west) bank there are no traces of
buttress walls. In conclusion we know:
In the 16th century Sultan Sulejman the Magnificent ordered the construction of a new
bridge in Mostar. From the reports of Hadzi Kalfa, the bridge was completed in 1566 which
coincidentally was the last year of Sulejman's reign.
Evlija Celebija the famous Ottoman traveler and writer produced more information on the
Old Bridge, claiming it was built by Kodza Mimar Sinan, son of Aga Abdulmenan under the
orders of Sulejman the Magnificent. Evlija also mentions that there was plumbing within
the bridge which was installed by a master craftsman; truly remarkable. However, Evlija
erred as to the architect of the bridge. A Turkish historian uncovered a document in which
it clearly states that the bridge was built by Hajrudin, Sinan's student.
The arch vault is built of voussoirs with radial links that are equal to the height of the
front arch. The voussoirs were placed out in horizontal rows, with three or four in one
line [from two to five per row even if frequently is three-four], some of these stones
exceeded 2m in length. The builder knowing that the structure, being of elegance, was very
fragile, that he made absolutely certain that no unnecessary stones were used. He made the
front walls on both sides 80cm thick [variable measure] and refused to fill the cavities
or core of the bridge with heavy stones and soil which was the usual procedure on other
bridges, (Zepa bridge being a prime example), instead of this he introduces one middle rib
and where possible he incorporated cavities to reduce the weight of the bridge. This
method of construction was used on the "Kriva Cuprija" bridge which straddles
the Radobolja brook, a tributary of the Neretva river. However, circumstances were
different for the Old Bridge, which required a more sophisticated sense for weight and
balance of the construction [structurally speaking this statement is not proved]. Viewing
the bridge in cross-section we can appreciate the method of construction: a cavity on the
upstream (north) side of the bridge measures 20cm wider than the one on the downstream
(south) side [today it is not possible to verify the above measure and peculiarity, which
anyhow might have been presumably variable along the structure]. Two other cavities were
discovered during maintenance work being done after World War II [even about this
peculiarity no verify and location is currently possible].
The transition from the arch to the front walls is highlighted with a decorative profile
[lower cornice] 15cm in height; the profile extends 15cm from the face of the bridge [see
following paragraphs for detailed notes about measures and technical data]. The front
faces of the bridge are on the same layer as the extended profile and are composed of
tenelija ashlars in horizontal rows. These ashlars continue partly down the side walls of
The bridge was partly annexed on the front rows of stone on the right side (west bank) in
order to lower the slope. This wedge shape form has three rows of stones in its final
spot, and its joints are perpendicular to the primary steep. It is difficult to tell
whether this correction was made after or during the construction of the bridge, but we
can assume that it was the second option, because there are no visible marks of different
procedure in the following construction.
The steep of the bridge is transparent on the
façades, by the profile [upper cornice] similar but thicker from the one above the arch
(approximately 20-24cm thick) [variable measure]. This profile is also going over the
front walls for 14cm. From the top of the bridge level is steeply falling to the left and
right side. The highest spot is on 60.39m above the see level, that means 20.34m above the
summer river level [variable measure]. On the right side it goes down to 57.24m, and on
the left 57.05m [see following paragraphs for detailed notes about measures and technical
The path over the bridge is from the both sides framed by stone plates parapet 23-25cm
thick [variable measure], and 94.50cm height [variable measure]. The parapet is tighten to
a profile in same layer as the front walls, so the profile [upper cornice] stays
plastically accented from the top and from the bottom. It is interesting to note that the
stone parapets were chamfered on one side and placed on top of the side walls [spandrels]
with the chamfered end of the stone facing away from the bridge.
Why this was done, we do not know, we may presume that was the fine sense for optical
effects, as in ancient pilasters or similar.
The path is paved by regular (big and small) stone plates, from the firm white limestone
[not limestone but krecnjak stone], with cross threshold, which keeps from slipping of the
people or horses. The stones are densely compressed and anchored with mortar, so that only
few drops of water were allowed into the construction. The threshold end before the
parapets, so that the rain would drain quickly and avoid making puddles. Underneath this
pavement there is the layer of cm15 of gravel stone with mortar made of red earth and
lime. This lowest level is leaned on the big stones with which the cavities were vaulted
with [for technical details concerning different layers below pavement refer to following
In following years, we cant tell exactly when, most possible during the further
reconstruction [maybe Austro-Hungarian period], the iron fence was added to the existing
stone parapets. . This was more than likely done for safety reasons while crossing the
The side walls which are attached to the supports from down and upstream side, and from
some angle are protecting the parts of the shore, to which the bridge is spanning, from
the water strokes, are mostly made to the same height as the front walls of the bridge.
The technique of building these walls isnt all alike and not similar to the masonry
of the bridge, so we can presume that it must have been rebuilt or repaired sometimes
during the centuries. This is mostly visible on the side walls on the left shore. Just on
that place the two signs about the reconstruction were found.
A community formed around the Old Bridge and developed into a strategic and commercial
hub. The surrounding mountains, the deep rocky river bed of the blue-green Neretva, houses
composed of various geometrical shapes, the two towers, the bridge itself, all made from
the same grey-white type stone, slate type covered roofs of the same stone only lighter in
shade, leaves a deep impression on the observer.
The towers of the bridge were considered to be construction parts that were necessary for
the support of the Old Bridge. However, this was over exaggerated and not the case, the
towers provided an artistic flare to the bridge and they did not serve as supports.
There are disagreements as to the dates of construction of the towers. The facts based on
the two signs (mentioned earlier in this text) the bridge being 974 (1566) and the towers
(1676). Some historians claim that the left tower on the east bank was built prior to the
tower on the west bank. The masonry also reveals different periods of building. The bridge
was made of precisely cut stone (as most other public buildings) whereas the towers were
constructed of gravel stone and other half worked materials.
From historical evidence it became obvious the two towers existed in 1452 (some writers
describe them even 84 years before the bridge).
The assumption that the towers are from the pre Turkish era were confirmed by researches
completed on the site. Research was first carried out on the tower situated on the right
bank of the Neretva. After the mortar was removed from the tower it was found to contain
gear grindings, similar traces were found on the left tower which proves an older dating
of the construction of the towers. This fact indicates that the towers where from the
medieval Bosnian State era and later modified for the needs of the Ottoman Turks. The
first renovations of the towers were made during the reign of Mehmed the II el-Fatih also
he carried out renovations on the then existing old wooden bridge. During that time the
whole town of Mostar was converted into a fortification.
The towers on either side of the bridge had a specific shape. half cylinders with the flat
side facing the bridge. The left tower (east bank) known as the Tara or Hercegusa, was
transformed into a storage area for ammunition and powder, during the occupation in 1878.
The right tower (west bank) was called the Halebinovka or Celovina tower. The lower
portion of the Halebinovka tower served as a prison while the upper floors were used as
observation posts. Venetian warriors attacked Mostar in 1652, 1693 and 1694. After the
first attack it was evident that it would be necessary to take measures to ensure the
protection of the city as well as the bridge crossing.
We know very little about the repairs made on the bridge outside of the fact that
Hajrudin's work was so solid that it resisted wear and tear through the centuries. We can
assume that the only fragile spot on the bridge was on the left (east) support and side
walls which indicated traces of building repair.
Despite the fact the sign (mentioned earlier in this text) and dated 1676
mentions no repair work on the bridge the facts prove that indeed that repair work was
carried out at that time. The second sign mentions that repairs on the bridge were
completed in 1150 (1736-1737).
During the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Mostar area many renovations were made. The
sloping ground on either side of the bridge was raised by 80 cm. in order to accommodate
the current traffic problems. The path on the bridge was also increased and re-surfaced.
To adapt to the current situation, main streets leading to the bridge were increased in
elevation, also the elevation of the entrance doors of the bridge were increased. After
World War II, reconstruction around the bridge area continued and the remains of
Austro-Hungarian intervention were removed. During the Austro-Hungarian period damaged
stones on the bridge were repaired using cement mortar, this was a poor solution as the
mortar left stained dark spots on the bridge.
During World War II plans were made to destroy the Old Bridge, luckily these plans were
discarded. However, some damages, due to mine slots, were done and even after mortar
repairs, water could penetrate the construction leading to further damages. The situation
was considered very serious therefore, restoration began in 1955. Supports were restored
on either side of the bridge and damaged walls and empty cavities fully repaired, the
restoration was completed by the end of 1965. The second stage of restoration involved the
arch of the Old Bridge using the injection method, with a special mixture of 82.50%
cement, 15% mixture of stone flour composed of limestone tenelija, 2.50% bentonit. The
required volume of this mixture for the repairs came to 7 cubic metres which gives us a
good indication that the arch (vault) was severely damaged also cracks were appearing in
the stone and mortar joints. At this time damaged stones on the vault as well as on the
façade were replaced, cavities of cement mortar were removed and replaced with a special
mixture that blended in with the colour of the tenelija stone.
The Old Bridge of Mostar was destroyed in November
1993 by shelling during recent war events; the moments in which shelling were ongoing have
been filmed and from that documentation it has been possible to gather some technical data
From analysis of the remaining portions of the bridge located by the east abutment, it is
possible to observe an higher surface deterioration on the north side than in the south
one, but, as far as it was possible to see from the movie, shelling were coming from south
side and hit mostly the south east portion of the bridge over the arch reins: nowadays the
widest remaining portions of the bridge are located on that side. This seems quite strange
but it is most likely that shootings were directed also to the north elevation during
other war attacks, and this is the reason why the bridge had been protected by tyres,
(temporary structures over the footpath were instead aimed at the protection of the people
from shootings). Moreover shelling was performed with accuracy almost on the same spot in
order to cause the collapse using the minimum numbers of shells and the structure was
divided in two main parts: a small one below the arch reins by the east bank, (still
built-in and on-site), and a big one which ruined wholly in the river.
From observations of the movie it is possible to note how shells have gradually brought to
the bridge collapse:
§ the load bearing arch was the main target element of the shelling: a wide portion of it
was destroyed before final collapse, (from the reins to the key stone for a thickness of
about a meter);
§ other shelling which were higher than the target perforated the spandrel wall with
escaping of fill;
§ the attack has been performed by people that knew the basic functioning of a bridge
§ shelling was performed with the aim of causing the collapse of the bridge and not of
ruining the bridge; the bridge collapsed when a shell broke definitely the continuity of
the load bearing arch.
The above mentioned movie has helped the work for the repositioning of the recovered
stones since it has been possible to determine the voussoirs that were most likely
definitely lost and reduced to powder due to direct hit.
The renovation program on the Old Bridge was in the works for ten years and many reports
were written by D. Krsmanovic, H. Dolarovic and Z. Langof, these reports and all technical
data are available today.
The Old Bridge in Mostar was the inspiration for
many poets and writers it also created many legends. Evlija Celebija talks of the bridge
as well as the cardak. The cardak was on the west bank of the Neretva, being
the meeting place of well educated people of that time. Today a coffee bar stands where
the cardak use to be.
From ancient times until today the Old Bridge has remained a symbol of Mostar, it remains
as an attraction for its inhabitants as well as for the many travellers and tourists. The
tradition of jumping from the top of the arch down to the river will remain a symbol,
carried by the generations to come, forever, as long as the Neretva river and the
Stari Most (Old Bridge) exist. [
PCU is a specialized agency whose responsibilities are performing
professional and other jobs for coordination of the project of the building of the Old
Bridge and other structures within Pilot Cultural Heritage Projects of Bosnia and
PCU has three components: 1. Building of the Old Bridge, (UNESCO), 2. Rebuilding of
neighbourhood (AGA KHAN TRUST FOR CULTURE), 3. Rebuildnig of other neghbouring structures.
The following contracts within the bridge components by means of international and limited
international competition have been signed so far:
· GEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS (joint-venture "CONEX" d.o.o
- Mostar and "YERALTI ARMACILIK" - Istanbul),
· DESIGN, PHOTOGRAMMETRY AND CALCULATIONS FOR THE OLD BRIDGE ("GENERAL
ENGINEERING" s.r.l., Italy)
· LABORATORY TESTS (LGA-Geotechnical Institute, Nuremberg).
· REHABILITATION OF TARA AND HALEBIJA TOWERS ARCHITECT AND
ARCHEOLOGICAL ASSIGNMENT (Omega Engineering, Grasa - Croatia)
· TECHNICAL CONSULTANT FOR PCU (BCEOM - France)
· CUTTING "TENELIJA" STONE STORED IN "KOMOS" (COMPANY
"KARA-DRVO" BiH )
· SUPERVISOR FOR CUTTING "TENELIJA" STONE STORED IN "KOMOS"
(Mr. ANTE KRINIC - Croatia)
· GEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION (INSTITITE FOR GEOLOGY SARAJEVO BiH )
· FONDATIONS OF THE OLD BRIDGE IN MOSTAR (YAPI MERKEZI - Turkey)
· RECONSTRUCTION OF THE OLD BRIDGE (ER-BU - Turkey)
· SUPERVISION OF THE RECONSTRUCTION OF THE OLD BRIDGE (Omega Engineering - Croatia)
This Pilot Project has been named, in agreement with
PCU as "Rehabilitation of the Old Bridge of Mostar" since it is partially
composed by different practical approaches: conservation and preservation, remedial and
repair interventions, dismantling and remounting operations and reconstruction works. All
the above should be aimed at the final rehabilitation and restoring of the Monumental
Complex of the Stari Most (Old Bridge) of Mostar.
Main design assumptions:
§ The Bridge of Mostar has been totally destroyed and doesnt exist anymore as a
whole structure, its ruins are the only left portions that should be considered the real
and the only original Old Bridge of Mostar.
§ The recovered stones are, at the moment, the only valuable elements of a great ancient
monument, they have historical value, and they represent an interesting example of the
ancient technique of assembling voussoirs and a constructive method which should be
studied and investigated.
§ Some bridge stones and arch voussoirs have been recovered from the river and stored on
a platform. Recovered stones, which are apparently not broken and which original position
has been determined, are 9% of the global amount.
§ Some bridge stones and arch voussoirs are still built-in next to the former bridge
springers. Those built-in stones, which are apparently not broken, are 13% of the global
§ Abutment walls are, by now, damaged either by structural fractures, either by heavy and
light shootings, and by small surface degradations due to time.
§ Something, with the war, has been definitely lost and may not be recovered or restored.
Main design interventions:
§ Recovered bridge stones and arch voussoirs, being what is left of the Old Bridge of
Mostar should not reused, but should be preserved exactly as they are and kept in good
condition to ensure their long lasting. This due either to restoration, either to
structural requirements (since the reuse would have caused a new stone cut and a
disassembling of the voussoirs).
§ Recovered bridge stones and arch voussoirs may be settled in a purpose built museum and
they may be organised for exhibition purposes. The original Old Bridge would be therefore
represented by those ruined portions, and this intervention would totally match the
International Principles of Restoration: it guarantees complete safeguarding and
preservation of the ruins and moreover it would be reversible and absolutely not invasive.
§ Recovered huge blocks of assembled voussoirs, that could not be settled on the platform
due to their weight, should be moved in a museum as well as all the other recovered
stones, to avoid their quick deterioration due to the river waters. (This despite ICE
wanted these blocks to be left as a monument by the shore).
§ On the spot where the bridge was, following the willing of the citizen of Mostar and
for social, political and symbolical reasons a new old bridge may be rebuilt
as a declared copy of the previous one. This copy should be built not approximately or
just close to the original one, since the value and the meaning of the new structure
should be in the "philological" and historical research of the ancient monument
as if this were an integration or a preliminary introduction to the visit of the real Old
Bridge settled in the museum.
§ Remaining built-in bridge stones and arch voussoirs next to the springers and to the
abutments, should be partially dismantled, during the remedial works, and remounted in the
original locations, during the reconstruction works trough an anastilosis technique. This
dismantling is required only to match structural and safety requirements.
§ Strengthening of the abutment walls next to the bridge springers should be performed
before and while dismantling operation are ongoing.
§ Declaration between former bridge elements and new intervention should be performed
trough refined and light marking devices, (as defined by design specifications and
§ Ancient abutments should be repaired only for what concern structural fractures and
heavy shootings: only for those damages that, due to the river floods, may lead to further
degradation if not repaired.
§ In the adjacent areas, concrete blocks should be totally demolished and remedial works
should be performed over the ancient flooring.
§ Repair works should be performed leaving all the signs of time and small traces of the
war, avoiding any intervention that may lead to a polished and renewed masonry layout.
Rehabilitation of the old bridge is therefore designed as:
§ conservation and preservation of the ancient stones recovered from the river;
§ remedial and repair of built-in stones, bridge remnants, abutment walls and flooring;
§ dismantling and remounting in the original locations of some portions of the bridge
§ reconstruction of a "new old bridge" marked and declared as a recent
§ demolishing of the concrete provisional blocks built during the war and post-war
· On 25.06.2002, the Project Manager of the PCU
announced the official beginning of the Works for the Contractor: the ER-BU Company. The
works on the Project Documentation, Methodology Procedures and other documents are in
preparations. Works on the Site started: the soil was firmed, drainage pipes for Radobolja
River were repaired and reinstalled, condition of the roads was improved, fencing of the
area started. Also the first scaffolding for the repair of the walls was erected.
· On 05.07.2002. Onega Engineering, signed the Contract for the Supervision of the
Reconstruction of The Old Bridge. They situated in new office, provided and equipped by
the Contractor ER-BU.