The Old Bridge (Stari Most) connects the two banks of the Neretva River at the narrowest point of the river gorge around which the city of Mostar developed. It replaced a medieval wooden bridge that marked the center of the first settlement here in the fifteenth century. By the middle of the sixteenth century, the settlement had grown significantly, making Mostar the main regional connection between the Adriatic Sea and the interior, linking cities to the north, south and west. Its strategic location led Ottoman Sultan Süleyman I (1520-1566) to commission the production of a more substantial and permanent crossing. Constructed from 1557 to 1566 by Ottoman architect Hayreddin, a pupil of the master architect Sinan, the Old Bridge is known for the elegance and structural ingenuity of its slender single-span masonry arch.
The bridge spans twenty-nine meters and carries a roadway four meters wide. The vault supporting the roadway is seventy-seven centimeters thick. The entire structure was built in local tenelija stone, a pale limestone known for its physical and chemical endurance. Individual stones were held together by iron clamps and then joined with molten lead. The bridge was later fortified at either end with a tower where bridge guards (mostari) would have been stationed. The tower on the west bank of the Neretva is known as the Halebinovka or Celovina Tower. It dates to the seventeenth century. On the east side, the Tara, or Hercegusa Tower dates to the sixteenth century.
On November 9, 1993, during Bosnia's inter-ethnic war between 1992 and 1995, Bosnian Croats purposefully destroyed the Old Bridge of Mostar, an enduring symbol of the region's multiculturalism. The international community immediately responded to its destruction and rallied for a global partnership to contribute to its urgent reconstruction. After a second ten-year construction period, the "new" Old Bridge was inaugurated on July 23, 2004. Joined under the framework of the International Stari Most Foundation, the World Bank, UNESCO, the Council of Europe Development Bank and various governments -- including Italy, the Netherlands, Croatia, Turkey and France -- offered financial and technical support for the reconstruction process together with the local and national governments of Mostar and Bosnia and Herzegovina. ER-BU Construction and Trade, a Turkish company specializing in the reconstruction of Ottoman stone bridges, reconstructed the Stari Most with local tenelija limestone mined from the same quarry as the original bridge. Original stones recovered from the river were also used in the "new" Stari Most.
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