September 29, 2020 marks the 23rd anniversary of the beginning of the reconstruction of the Old Bridge in Mostar, which was demolished by tank action by the Croatian Defense Council (HVO) on November 9, 1993.
A legendary diver from Mostar Emir Balić said that he was absent from the city when the Old Bridge was demolished and that he was shocked by the information about its destruction.
”One journalist informed me that the Old Bridge was demolished. I was shocked. I could not believe it even when I saw it on the news. The bridge that stood firm for more than 400 years and endured all wars, earthquakes and natural disasters was eventually destroyed by men. That was shocking. This bridge is the symbol of the city. It was everything to us, back at hte time. That is why it is important to mark the anniversary of its destruction and its reconstruction,“ said Balic, adding that the Old Bridge is for BiH and Mostar the same thing as the Eiffel Tower is for Paris and France.
Old Bridge is the work of the Turkish architect Hayrudin, who made the bridge upon the order by Suleiman the Magnificent. The bridge was being built in the period from 1557 until 1566. Although there is not much official information about its construction, it is known that the bridge was the greatest arched construction in the world and one of the biggest architectural ventures of the time.
The arch is 28.7 meters high. Two towers were built for the bridge keepers, Halebija and Tara, and during the Ottoman rule, they served as weapon storage.
Reconstruction of the Old Bridge took seven years to complete and it cost 13.5 million USD. Funds were collected thanks to a credit from the World Bank and donations from Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands and Croatia.
Reconstruction was completed in June 2004 and the opening ceremony was held on June 23, 2004. The Old Bridge and the old town of Mostar were put on UNESCO’s world heritage list in 2005, thus becoming the first cultural heritage monument on UNESCO’s list from BiH.
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 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.