History Class: Things that You did not know about Historic Town of Mostar

January 26, 2020 3:45 PM

 

The historic town of Mostar, spanning a deep valley of the Neretva River, developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostar has long been known for its old Turkish houses and Old Bridge, Stari Most, after which it is named. In the 1990s conflict, however, most of the historic town and the Old Bridge, designed by the renowned architect Sinan, was destroyed. The Old Bridge was recently rebuilt and many of the edifices in the Old Town have been restored or rebuilt with the contribution of an international scientific committee established by UNESCO. The Old Bridge area, with its pre-Ottoman, eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and western European architectural features, is an outstanding example of a multicultural urban settlement. The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar is a symbol of reconciliation, international co-operation and of the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities.

A settlement established as an urban structure in the 15th century on the crossing of a river and a land road was originally located in a valley of the Neretva River, between Hum Hill and the foot of the Velež Mountain. This relatively small settlement had two towers around the bridge, which dated 1459, as noted by written historical sources. The current name, Mostar, was mentioned for the first time in 1474 and derived from “mostari” – the bridge keepers.

The historic town of Mostar developed in the 15th and 16th centuries as an Ottoman frontier town and during the short Austro-Hungarian period in the 19th and 20th centuries. Mostar has been long known for its old Turkish houses and the Old Bridge – Stari most, an extraordinary technological achievement of bridge construction. The historic part of Mostar is a result of interaction between the natural phenomena and human creativity throughout a long historical period. The essence of centuries-long cultural continuity is represented by the universal synthesis of life phenomena: the bridge and its fortresses – with the rich archeological layers from the pre-Ottoman period, religious edifices, residential zones (mahalas), arable lands, houses, bazaar, its public life in the streets and water. Architecture here presented a symbol of tolerance: a shared life of Muslims, Christians and Jews.

Mosques, churches, and synagogues existed side-by-side indicating that in this region, the Roman Catholic Croats with their Western European culture, the Eastern Orthodox Serbs with their elements of Byzantine culture, and the Sephardic Jews continued to live together with the Bosniaks-Muslims for more than four centuries. A specific regional architecture was thus created and left behind a series of unique architectural achievements, mostly modest by physical dimensions, but of considerable importance for the cultural history of its people. The creative process produced a constant flow of various cultural influences that, like streams merging into a single river, became more than a mere sum of the individual contributing elements.

In the 1990 conflict, however, most of the historic town and the Old Bridge, a masterpiece designed by the famous architect, mimar Hajruddin (according to the design of his master-teacher, great architect mimar Sinan), were destroyed. The Old Bridge was rebuilt in 2004 and many of the edifices in the Old Town were restored or rebuilt with the contribution of the international scientific committee established by UNESCO.

The Old Bridge Area, with its pre-Ottoman, Eastern Ottoman, Mediterranean and Western European architectural features, is an outstanding example of a multicultural urban settlement. The reconstructed Old Bridge and Old City of Mostar are symbols of reconciliation, international cooperation and the coexistence of diverse cultural, ethnic and religious communities.

Criterion (vi): With the “renaissance” of the Old Bridge and its surroundings, the symbolic power and meaning of the City of Mostar – as an exceptional and universal symbol of coexistence of communities from diverse cultural, ethnic and religious backgrounds – has been reinforced and strengthened, underlining the unlimited efforts of human solidarity for peace and powerful cooperation in the face of overwhelming catastrophes.

Integrity

The inscribed property encompasses 7.60 ha, with a buffer zone of 48 ha and contains the elements to convey its Outstanding Universal Value. After the reconstruction works, the Old Bridge is again a testimonial, in time and space, of the history of the Old City of Mostar. Reconstruction works of the Old Bridge complex and its surrounding monumental structures, infrastructure and majority of urban fabric took into consideration the overall integrity of the place. This was achieved by following the pre-war appearance and features of the structures to maintain vertical and horizontal dimensions, forms, scale and materialization – in other words, the integral expression of the Old City of Mostar. The exceptional features of the historic urban area of Mostar were presented again in their interrelation between natural and constructed elements, with the Old Bridge as a masterpiece of bridge construction.

The elements that reflect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are present in situ, including the intangible ones (especially its symbolic power). Furthermore, archaeological findings of the older medieval bridges (almost at the same location of the Old Bridge) point out the strong historical and functional integrity as well as the ability of architects and town planners to integrate new development principles and architecture with the earlier medieval era.

The Old City of Mostar, shaped and defined during the Medieval, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian period, preserved its coherence as a whole with recognizable features of the townscape and legibility in an urban-morphological matrix, without introducing alterations in the form of new or inappropriately renewed structures.

Authenticity

The reconstruction of the Old Bridge was based on thorough and detailed, multi-facetted analyses, relying on high quality documentation. The authenticity of form, use of authentic materials and techniques are fully recognizable while the reconstruction has not been hidden at all. Remaining original material has been exposed in a museum, becoming an inseparable part of the reconstruction. The reconstruction of the fabric of the bridge should be seen as the background to the restoration of the intangible dimensions of this property.

At the urban scale, authenticity is preserved through an integrative rehabilitation of the historic core by the renovation of physical structures and the introduction of the appropriate functions. The use of the original volumes, sites and building materials for each structure preserved the typology and morphology of the historic fabric. The key features of the city, natural surroundings, and the urban matrix with the architectural landmarks remain genuine.

Architectural authenticity is achieved by the application of contemporary theories and practices, accompanied with extensive research and re-use of original elements found on the site. Reconstruction remained faithful to the idea and principles of the original structure, with respect for different historical layers and previous restoration works.

Protection and management requirements

Protection measures are related to the harmonized set of laws for the protection of listed national monuments, in particular the Law on Implementation of Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2002), the Law on the Protection and Use of Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of SR Bosnia and Herzegovina (1985) and the Law on Physical Planning and Land Use at the Level of Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (2006), accompanied by other related laws and regulations. In addition, the Historical Urban Area of Mostar was listed as national monument with boundaries that correspond to the area of the inscribed property.

In terms of management, the Management Plan for the Old City of Mostar has been implemented. This document, composed of four parts (government, finance, planning and implementation, including the Master Plan 2001) was formulated with the aim to preserve and protect the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. The Plan also defines the activities necessary to ensure adequate management, the sustainable use of the World Heritage property in a way appropriate to its Outstanding Universal Value, cultural and historical features, sustainable protection and conservation of cultural values. It also underlines the property’s active role in improving conditions and quality of life of the local community. A Master Plan was adopted by the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In operational terms, the Mostar City Council established the Agency “Stari Grad” (located in Mostar) responsible for preservation, development, site management and monitoring. The Agency works in close cooperation with other institutions in charge of heritage protection (mostly with the Federal Institute for the Protection of Monuments). The works related to heritage protection are financed mostly by the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the City of Mostar. The City of Mostar also implements projects related to the improvement of the city’s infrastructure.

Challenges remain in effectively ensuring that development pressures do not threaten the conditions of integrity and the conservation of the property and its buffer zone. To this effect, heritage protection services need to have the necessary measures in place to prevent and mitigate potential negative impacts.

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