Višegrad Old Bridge

The Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad across the Drina River in the eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina was built at the end of the 16th century by the court architect Mimar Koca Sinan along the orders of the Grand Vizier Mehmed Paša Sokolović. Since 1544 Višegrad was under the Turkish occupation until the Berlin Congress in 1878, when Bosnia came into the hands of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire.

Featuring the Ottoman monumental architecture and the civil engineering, the Old Višegrad Bridge has 11 masonry arches of span from 11 to 15 meters, and an access ramp at the right angles with four arches on the left bank of the river. The 179,5 meters long Višegrad Bridge over the Drina River is the representative masterpiece of Kodja Mimar Sinan, one of or the greatest architects and engineers of the Classic Ottoman period and a contemporary of the Italian Renaissance, with which his work may be compared. The unique elegance of proportion and monumental gracefullness of the whole Old Visegrad Bridge bear witness to the greatness of this style of architecture.

The universal value of the bridge at Višegrad is unquestionable for all the historical reasons and in view of the architectural values it has. It represents a major stage in the history of civil engineering and bridge architecture, erected by one of the most celebrated builders of the Ottoman Empire. The Old Visegrad Bridge particularly bears witness to the transmission and adaptation of techniques in the course of a long historical process. The Visegrad bridge also bears witness to important cultural exchanges between the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire and the Mediterranean world, between the Christianity and Islam, through the long course of history and the areas of different civilizations. The Visegrad bridge is an exceptional representative of Ottoman architecture and civil engineering at its classical apogee. Its symbolic role has been important through the course of history, and particularly in the many conflicts that took place in the 20th century. Its cultural value transcends both national and cultural borders. The Drina is a mountainous river, drawing water from the mountains of the Balkans towards the Sava and the Danube Rivers. It is prone to flooding and the Višegrad bridge parapets were destroyed in an exceptional flood in 1896. In the center of the Visegrad bridge was a wooden tower that represented the guarding point beneath which was the passing road closed with strong oak doors. This tower included several small cannons. This guarding tower of the Visegrad Bridge was destroyed in 1886. From 1915 unitl 1939 there was iron construction on the damaged part of the bridge, along which operated rail traffic. The Visegrad Bridge over the Drina River was demolished by partisans – members of the 4th Krajina brigade – 5th Krajina Division in the night between 9th and 10th December of 1943 during their withdrowal in front of the upcoming German troops. It is not widely known, but this terrible act was recorded by a German photographer by his photo which shows a large German inscription Victoria – victory on demolished side of the bridge.

In addition, the Višegrad Old bridge was severely damaged during both world wars and, after temporary repairs, reconstructed in stone in the early 1950s. It remains fragile, its foundations being particularly endangered by the two hydro-electric power stations, one in Bosnia and one in Serbia, that affect the water levels of the river. Despite these historical events, uniqueness and authenticity of the Old Višegrad Bridge has generally been maintained through the course of the bridge’s successive restorations.

Ivo Andric knew the mindless, vicious hatred that could be unleashed between neighbors who had for years lived peaceably side by side. And he knew clearly the paradox that this evil may be set in motion by appealing to what should be man’s noblest impulse: loyalty to a nation or a faith.

From everything that man erects and builds in his urge for living, nothing is in my eyes better and more valuable than bridges. They are more important than houses, more sacred than shrines. Belonging to everyone and being equal to everyone, useful, always built with sense, on the spot where most human needs are crossing, they are more durable than other buildings and they do not serve for anything secret or bad”.  Nobel Prize Winner Ivo Andrić ”The Bridges”.



Tito’s Partisans Trails

Enchanting Balkan Tour

Balkan Roundtrip