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The Touch of Islamic Art: The Ottoman Bridges in Bosnia

MIT
2/26/2014
3593 views

It is no news that Islam ruled the world at a particular point in the epochs of this human history. It emerged from a city in today's middle East called Yathrib. The name later evolved into al-Madinah al-Munawwarah (the lighted City) after the migration of the noble Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to it. The Islamic reign started from this small town in the dry desert of the Arab peninsular. It spread fast and wide and gained acceptance from far and wide. Islam, in this regard, achieved within a period of two centuries what other bigger nations like the Roman Empire and its like could not achieve in eight hundred years. [1]

 

 

 

However, Islam came and made so much impact and difference in the life of the people. Sciences and philosophy, after being considered as mere myths and fallacies of Aristotle and his gang, came into light. Innovations of all kinds were the peak of the day. Medical inventions, Physics, Biology, Engineering et al thrived. Knowledge was the true light of the time with which people sort to see and walk after. The government gave its best in supporting and making sure books were translated from different languages and many others written. A wonderful culture and civilization was born. This spread with the spread of Islam from the far East over China down the West via India and Russia.

 

 

 

Of the effect felt by places and people Islam once ruled was the architectural effct of bridge construction. One of those places is the Sarajevo city in Bosnia. The biggest concentration of the bridges in city area was in Sarajevo. The capital city divided by the river Miljacka where most of the bridges were built on. A number of bridges were also built in the peripheral part of the city on rivers Željeznica and Bosnia. The exact number of bridges is unknown but there was at least seven stone bridges from the Ottoman period, of which four are preserved.

 

 

 

The important part of the Bosnian architectural heritage are the Ottoman bridges. Their construction should be viewed in the context of the general urbanization of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th and 16th century. With the trade development, new paths were created and with them the bridges, usually a part of vizier or sultan legacy. Some of those bridges were the biggest projects of their time, such as the monumental bridge of Mehmed-pasha Sokolović in Višegrad.

 

 

 

Due to the weakening of Bosnian government, the bridges in the 18th century were mainly built by private sponsors. Although, those bridges were definitely less ambitious projects, yet the quality of the construction was very good. The same goes with the style consistency. The Ottoman bridges in Bosnia and any other place you find them always had their recognizable appearance and there were only few formal differences between early and late construction. Within the basic Ottoman style there were always some local characteristics, also present in the construction of mosques. These some refer to as the Turkish touches. Because the Turkish were and are still very much known with their architectural style.

 

 

 

However, most fascinating is their sculptural form, like the sculpted and massive pillars, the buttresses, the pointed arches, the circular and polygonal structural openings, the cornices, the pedestals for inscriptions, etc. The bridges, as engineering projects, are the true works of art.

 

 

 

Some of the Ottoman Bridges in Sarajevo

 

1- The bridge 'Kozja ćuprija' is probably the legacy of the grand vizier Mehmed Pasha Sokolović. This single-arch bridge, 42 m in length, is an example of exceptional aesthetics, defined by two large round side holes to facilitate the construction and to serve as a decoration.

 

2- The bridge 'Šeher-Ćehaja', named probably by one of the Sarajevo governors (ćehaja), is a standard bridge with multiple arches. Its beauty is reflected in the poles with distinguished pedestals, the buttresses and the sculptural accentuated emphasizes that serve as a protection from the floods. The bridge, 40 m in length, was originally longer, considering that the fifth arch was buried during the regulation of riverbed of Miljacka during the Austro-Hungarian occupation.

 

3. The bridge 'Latinska ćuprija' or the Latin bridge got its name after the city district 'Latin mahala' where the merchants from Dubrovnik and other parts of Europe lived. The original bridge was built in the 16th century, but was destroyed in the flood and fully reconstructed in 1798. Sarajevo merchant Abdullah Briga left in his will, for charity purposes, enough means that were used to fund the reconstruction. 40 m in length, the bridge has only four arches visible, from the original five.

 

4- The Roman bridge is definitely the most interesting from the all four bridges. The name can be misleading, since it was actually built in the first half of the 16th century. It's not certain who built the bridge. Some claim the patron was Rustem Pasha, the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, while others argue that it could also have been Semiz Ali Pasha or Gazi Ali Pasha. However, the name probably comes from the ancient Roman road, or what is more likely, by the stone from the Roman ruins used in the construction. The bridge, 52 m in length, is an example of extraordinary synergy between architecture and natural environment.

 

 

 

If at that time of human history, Muslims could possess the knowledge required to construct bridges of this magnitude and firmness, I wonder where those who tag Islam and Muslims barbaric and non development loving people are looking at! In fact, construction of these bridges, which is one out of many handwork of the early Muslims around the world, is nothing but a clear sign that the Muslim nation has contributed so much to human development, more especially when other parts of the world were still in their dark stone ages.

 

 

 

[1] islamicartsmagazine.com






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