Šeher-Ćehaja’s Bridge is one of the four oldest standing bridges in Sarajevo. It was the first bridge built during Ottoman period and put under state protection and listed as an important monument of the Ottoman period culture since 1962. Today it has the status of a national monument in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It spans over Miljacka River and is located very close to the historic part of the city and the city hall “Vijećnica”. The locality itself has a historic significance as it is the place of even older medieval river crossing. Located in picturesque surroundings, this bridge is valuable not only as a single monument but also as an inseparable part of Old Sarajevo ambiance.
Not much is known about the construction of the original bridge itself, but according to the only written document, a transcript of the chronogram found in the City Archive of Mostar (located south of Sarajevo), it was built in 1585/86. The name itself indicates that a šeher-ćehaja (city governor) of Sarajevo had it built.
Constructed by conventional methods in Ottoman bridge construction from 16th to 19th century, it belongs to a category of stone bridges with multiple arches. Originally it was built with five arches and four pillars with triangular base on the upstream side and polygonal base on the other.
Šeher-Ćehaja’s Bridge was heavily damaged and repaired several times over the course of the centuries. It was damaged for the first time during floods in 1619 and then again in 1843 when the Miljacka river destroyed two of its supporting pillars which were reconstructed soon afterwards. Another recorded crack on the bridge happened during a torrent in 1880.
Major changes on the bridge were made during Austro-Hungarian rule when in 1897 one of the five arches was covered with earth during an attempt to regulate the Miljacka riverbed and in 1904 when the stone fence “korkaluk” was dismantled and the cantilever pedestrian paths with iron fence were attached.
Over the centuries the building has suffered numerous modifications and changes. Eroded by time and in some of its segments altered with unscientific and unsystematic interventions, exposed to the harmful effects of motor traffic for years, and ultimately destruction during the siege of Sarajevo from 1992 to 1995, the bridge was downgraded. At the end of the millennia it was in poor condition, both in terms of preservation of the physical structure and its loss of authenticity.
From 1998 to 2001 a series of reparations were undertaken to restore the bridge to its original appearance. A project of structural repairs, reconstruction and conservation of the bridge had the task to consolidate and repair the structure to protect it from further deterioration, and on the other hand, to restore the authenticity of the building as far as possible.
Now Šeher-Ćehaja’s Bridge has its stone “korkaluk” again; limestone paving for pedestrians and bedding layers below are reconstructed and is not used for motor traffic anymore. Also at night, this national monument is now conveniently illuminated.
Photo taken by Haris Bulić