Stone Bridge

The Stone Bridge, the symbol of the city of Skopje, is built over the river Vardar and stands as a direct link between its and new parts. Approximately 220 m long and slightly over 6 m wide, it is one of the important urban landmarks of the city. as the famous travel writer Evliya Çelebi states, it was built in the second half of the 15th century, during the rule of Sultan Mehmed ii the conqueror (1451-1481), although there are certain indications that the bridge is earlier in date, that is, that it was built in the first half of the 15th century, during Sultan Murad II (1421-1451). The latter claim is supported by the fact that a slab with the inscription referring to the time of its building stood on the east side of the bridge. Such a claim is also substantiated by the reference in the waqfname of the Isa Bey Mosque, which states that it was built during Sultan Murad II.

There is no data on its builder, although the bridge has always provoked admiration among the visitors and is often mentioned in the travel writings of a number of travellers. According to the inscription slab placed in the bridge guard tower in 1909, which had stood on the bridge until the earthquake of 1963, one of the reconstructions of the bridge was carried out on the occasion of the visit of Mehmed V, that is, his son, Reshad II. As the result of heavy traffic, the bridge was extended, when the original stone balustrade was removed and the bridge was widened with pedestrian walkways on both sides supported by a metal construction. The inscription also states that the bridge was built by Sultan Murad II, while its expansion was decreed by Sultan Reshad.

With its exceptional building technique, stylistic features and characteristics decorative elements, the Stone Bridge in Skopje is a typical example of ottoman building, i.e., it possesses all the characteristics of a Turkish bridge. It is one of the most monumental works of ottoman architecture in Macedonia, reflecting the peak of ottoman building of the 15th and 16th centuries. The bridge rests on massive stone piers spanned with 13 semicircular arches. On both sides of the bridge, each of the piers has the so-called spurs intended for the protection of the bridge from collapsing in case of flooding. The bridge is built of finely chiselled travertine blocks. The vaults on four of the arches are made of brick, while the rest of the arches are made of stone. The central pier has two compartments in its interior whose purpose was to alleviate the pressure on the pier; the compartments also had a defensive purpose, which is evident from the openings/loopholes in each of them. A mihrab niche/guard tower, with prominent stalactite decoration crafted with great precision, stands in its middle. Opposite the mihrab niche is an extension in the form of a balcony supported by masonry consoles, used for the rest of the tired pedestrians. The bridge is additionally adorned with sculpted stone elements in the shape of rosettes on several of the bridge arches, a characteristic of the ottoman art of the 15th and 16th centuries.

Archaeological research carried out on the left bank of the Vardar revealed the remains of a bridge dated to the period between 527 to 535, the time of the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, which testifies to the continuity of the existence of this bridge. Its present-day appearance is the result of the reconstruction it underwent between 1992 and 2004, when its authentic stone balustrade was restored, thus restoring its original radiance as well.

Bibliography:

Katanich N., Gojkovich M., Gragja za proucavanje starih kamenih mostova i akvedukata u Srbiji, Makedoniji i Crnoj Gori, Beograd 1961, 117-132.
Nikolovski A., Balabanov K., Kjornakov D., “Kameniot most na rekata Vardar”, Spomenici na kulturata na Makedonija, Skopje 1980, 46-47.
Ayverdi E.H., Avrupa’da osmanlı Mimari eserleri – Yugoslavya, iii. cild, 3.Kitab, İstanbul 1981, 300-302.
Kumbaradzi-Bogoevich L., Osmanliski spomenici vo Skopje, Skopje 1998.
Pavlov Z., Stone Bridge, Ottoman Monuments, Cultural heritage protection office, Skopje, 2009, 100-101.

 


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