Stari Most also known as Mostar Bridge (Turkish: Mostar Köprüsü), is a rebuilt 16th-century Ottoman bridge in the city of Mostar in Bosnia and Herzegovina that crosses the river Neretva and connects the two parts of the city. The Old Bridge stood for 427 years, until it was destroyed on 9 November 1993 by Croat paramilitary forces during the Croat–Bosniak War. Subsequently, a project was set in motion to reconstruct it; the rebuilt bridge opened on 23 July 2004.
The bridge is considered an exemplary piece of Balkan Islamic architecture and was commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1557. It was designed by Mimar Hayruddin, a student and apprentice of architect Mimar Sinan who built many of the Sultan’s key buildings in Istanbul and around the empire.
The bridge spans the Neretva river in the old town of Mostar, the city to which it gave the name. The city is the fifth-largest in the country; it is the center of the Herzegovina-Neretva Canton of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the unofficial capital of Herzegovina. The Stari Most is hump-backed, 4 metres (13 ft 1 in) wide and 30 metres (98 ft 5 in) long, and dominates the river from a height of 24 m (78 ft 9 in). Two fortified towers protect it: the Halebija tower on the northeast and the Tara tower on the southwest, called “the bridge keepers” (natively mostari).
Instead of foundations, the bridge has abutments of limestone linked to wing walls along the waterside cliffs. Measuring from the summer water level of 40.05 m (131 ft 5 in), abutments are erected to a height of 6.53 metres (21 ft 5 in), from which the arch springs to its high point. The start of the arch is emphasized by a molding 0.32 metres (1 ft 1 in) in height. The rise of the arch is 12.02 metres (39 ft 5 i).
The Old Bridge was destroyed on November 9, 1993 in the War in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in a standoff that lasted about 24 hours. The first temporary bridge on the traces of the Old Bridge was open on December 30, 1993; built in only three days by Spanish military engineers assigned to the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) mission. The temporary structure was subsequently upgraded three times, to eventually link the shores with a more secure cable-stayed bridge until the proper reconstruction of the Old Bridge.
Newspapers based in Sarajevo reported that more than 60 shells hit the bridge before it collapsed. Croatian General and sentenced war-criminal, Slobodan Praljak, in attempt to absolve himself and his military units from responsibility and prosecution for the destruction of the bridge and other crimes committed during the war, published a document, “How the Old Bridge Was Destroyed”, where he argues that there was supposedly an explosive charge or mine placed at the center of the bridge underneath and detonated remotely, in addition to the shelling, which caused the collapse. Most historians dismiss these claims, and disagree with its conclusions.
After the destruction of the Stari Most, a spokesman for the Croats said that they deliberately destroyed it, because it was of strategic importance. Academics have argued that the bridge held little strategic value and that its shelling was an example of deliberate cultural property destruction. Given that mosques, synagogues, and churches in Mostar were in proximity, the Old Bridge was targeted for the symbolic significance it served in connecting diverse communities. Andras Riedlmayer terms the destruction an act of “killing memory”, in which evidence of a shared cultural heritage and peaceful co-existence were deliberately destroyed.
After the end of the war, plans were raised to reconstruct the bridge. The World Bank, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund formed a coalition to oversee the reconstruction of the Stari Most and the historic city centre of Mostar. Additional funding was provided by Italy, the Netherlands, Turkey, Croatia and the Council of Europe Development Bank, as well as the Bosnian government. In October 1998, UNESCO established an international committee of experts to oversee the design and reconstruction work. It was decided to build a bridge as similar as possible to the original, using the same technology and materials.
The bridge was re-built in two phases: the first one being led by Hungarian army engineers, consisting in the lifting of submerged material for its repurpose; and the second one being the removal of the temporary bridge —task assigned to Spanish army engineers— and the reconstruction of the Old Bridge with Ottoman construction techniques by a partnership of civil engineering companies led by the Turkish Er-Bu. Tenelia, a fine-grained limestone, sourced from local quarries was used and Hungarian army divers recovered stones from the original bridge from the river below, although most were too damaged to reuse.
Reconstruction commenced on 7 June 2001. The reconstructed bridge was inaugurated on 23 July 2004, with the cost estimated to be 15.5 million US dollars.
Stari Most diving is a traditional annual competition in diving organized every year in mid summer (end of July). It is traditional for the young men of the town to leap from the bridge into the Neretva. As the Neretva is very cold, this is a risky feat and requires skill and training, though TripAdvisor has said tourists do dive as well. In 1968 a formal diving competition was inaugurated and held every summer. The first person to jump from the bridge since it was re-opened was Enej Kelecija.
Since 2015, Stari Most has been a tour stop in the Red Bull Cliff Diving World Series.