History Class: Mostar and Old Bridge since 1459

July 23, 2019 7:30 PM

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.

 

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