The Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic Bridge of Visegrad (2007)
Bosnia-Herzegovina

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The Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge of Višegrad across the Drina River in the east of Bosnia and Herzegovina was built at the end of the 16th century by the court architect Sinan on the order of the Grand Vizier Mehmed Paša Sokolović. It is characteristic of the apogee of Ottoman monumental architecture and civil engineering. 

It numbers 11 masonry arches, with spans of 11 to 15 metres, and an access ramp at right angles with four arches on the left bank of the river. 

The 179.50m long bridge is a representative masterpiece of Mimar Koca Sinan, one of the greatest architects and engineers of the classical Ottoman period and a contemporary of the Italian Renaissance, with which his work can be compared. 

The unique elegance of proportion and monumental nobility of the property as a whole witness to the greatness of this style of architecture. 

  • Bosnia-Herzegovina 1995. The Bridge of Visegrad. The stamp is No. 5 of a set of five old bridges. 

Bosnia-Herzegovina 1995. The Bridge of Visegrad. The stamp is No. 5 of a set of five old bridges.

Yugoslavia 1983. Europa Stamp. The author Ivo Andric in front of the Bridge of Visegrad. The stamp is No. 2 in a set of two.

The Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Visegrad across the Drina River in the east of Bosnia and Herzegovina was built at the end of the 16th century by the court architect Sinán on the order of the Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic. 

Three of its 11 arches were destroyed during World War I and five were destroyed during World War II, but were subsequently restored. 

The bridge is the most widely known cause of the book "The Bridge on the Drina" , written by Ivo Andric, Nobel Prize winning author in 1961.  

  • Yugoslavia 1983. Europa Stamp. The author Ivo Andric in front of the Bridge of Visegrad. The stamp is No. 2 in a set of two. 

Ivo Andric (1892-1975), was a Yugoslav novelist and short-story writer, and Nobel laureate, born in Doc, near Travnik, Bosnia (then part of Austria-Hungary). He was educated at the universities in Zagreb, Kraków, Vienna, and Graz. Before World War I he was a member of a revolutionary nationalistic movement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Because of his political activities, Andric was interned by the Austrian government during World War I. 

Under the newly formed Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia), Andric held a number of diplomatic posts, including that of ambassador to Germany. He resigned his ambassadorship in 1941 and spent World War II in Belgrade. The material for his works was drawn from the history and life of his native Bosnia. Andric wrote in the Serbo-Croatian language. 

Among his works translated into English the best known is The Bridge on the Drina (1945; trans. 1959), He received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1961.

The book describes the relations between Orthodox Christian Serbs and Muslims in the town of Visegrad. in eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina during the centuries of the Ottoman occupation. The story spans about four centuries and is in some sense a collection of short stories. What unites the book and becomes in a sense the main "character" is the bridge over the Drina River in Visegrad, now eastern Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Almost from the beginning of the book Andrić focuses on a small boy taken from his mother as part of the levy of Christian subjects of the Sultan. Andrić describes how the mothers of these children follow their sons wailing, until they reach a river where the children are taken across by ferry and the mothers can no longer follow. That child becomes a Muslim and, taking a Turkish name (Mehmed, later Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, is promoted quickly and around the age of 60 becomes Grand Vizier. Yet, that moment of separation still haunts him and he decides to order the building of a bridge at a point on the river where he was parted from his mother.

  • Yugoslavia 1967. Bridge in Visegrad. The stamp is No.5 in a set of six stamps.  

Yugoslavia 1967. Bridge in Visegrad. The stamp is No.5 in a set of six stamps.

Already then, even before it has been built, Andrić is portraying the bridge as something with the power not merely to bridge a river but to heal divisions; yet it is quickly to become clear that in this role it is a flawed unifier.

The construction work started in 1566 and five years later the bridge was completed (together with a caravanserai, signifying a very important link between Sarajevo pashaluk (the territory of the present-day Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the rest of the Turkish empire, and replacing the unreliable boat transport across the river. The reader learns how serfs are forced to build it and how they variously strike and sabotage the construction site because of poor working conditions.

Sources and links:

Many thanks to Mr. Miomir Zivkovic (Serbia), for providing stamp images and appropriate information about Ivo Andric, and the story behind the bridge. 

 

Other World Heritage Sites in Bosnia Herzegovina (on this site). Please refer to the UNESCO-listing (Bosnia-Herzegovina), for more information about the individual properties including the criteria for their  inscription

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Revised 18 aug 2007  
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