Višegrad’s Famous Ottoman Bridge

The Mehmed-Pasha Sokolovic bridge over the Drina River in Višegrad was designed by the famous Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan and completed in 1571. It is named after Mehmed-Pasha Sokolovic, who was born near Višegrad but was taken to Istanbul as a youth where he converted to Islam and later became Grand Vizier to three sultans, as well as holding other important posts in the Ottoman government.

Construction of the bridge took place between 1571 and 1577. During the 1992–95 war in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the bridge was a place of the brutal killing of a large number of Bosniak civilians by Bosnian Serb Army during the Višegrad massacre in 1992.

The bridge was partially destroyed during World War II, but soon restored. It became the subject of a famous historical novel, The Bridge on the Drina, written in 1945 by Yugoslav writer, Ivo Andrič. In 1961, Andrič received the Nobel Prize for Literature, based in part on The Bridge on the Drina.

In 1991 Bosniak Muslims made up 64% of Višegrad’s population. Most, however, were later driven out during the Bosnian-Serbs’ war of “ethnic cleansing.” The town of Višegrad was placed strategically along the river and main road in what would become the Serbian controlled Republika Srpska.

Although Višegrad’s bridge survived the war, it may not long survive the peace. It is listed as one of the World Monuments Fund’s 100 Most Endangered Sites. Construction nearby of two hydroelectric power plants and a reservoir have raised the water level on the Drina and substantially eroded the bridge’s subsurface supports. The government of Republika Srpska has done nothing to save the bridge.