Sarajevo’s Latin Bridge – sparking off World War I

Latinska Ćuprija (Latin bridge) is one of the oldest preserved bridges on the Miljacka river and the only multi-arched bridge with circular openings. As almost all of the characteristics of the traditional Ottoman bridge made of stone are preserved, in 1950 it was placed under state protection as a cultural monument, and proclaimed a national monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2004.

The Latin Bridge was named after ‘Latinluk’, the nearby catholic quarter, but it is also known as Princip’s Bridge, named after the Gavrilo Princip, who assassinated the Austro-Hungarian heir to the throne Franz Ferdinand on that spot in 1914. Soon after, the bridge included a bench and a monument to the assassination, which was subsequently removed in 1918.

The first mention of a stone bridge at this location is mentioned in 1565, erected by Ali Ajni-bey. Severe flooding caused damage to the bridge’s construction, so it had to be reconstructed twice, once in 1739 and in 1789. After flooding in 1791, the bridge was out of commission for six years, only being completed in 1798, with the financing of hajji-Abdulah Briga. Over the years, the bridge underwent several changes, but most of the structure considered to be original comes from this restoration work. Ist foundations and parts of columns and arches which are under water most of the time are made from hreša – a type of limestone. Vaults, frontal arcs and frontal walls are walled with travertine. The east columns have a triangular base with pyramidal endings, while the west columns have polygonal bases and conic endings. At the ending of 19th century, the bridge was substantially changed to cope with Sarajevo’s increased traffic. Because of the works on regulating the Miljacka riverbed, one of the stone arches is unfortunately now covered with earth, destroying its symmetry. Pedestrian cantilever walkways and iron railings have also been added, while the old stone fence was removed. The bridge’s length is 40 meters, but if we take into account the destroyed arch it would surpass 50 meters.

Its current appearance is a result of a series of restorative and conservative works in 2004. The iron railings were removed and the authentic stone fence was restored. The floor tiles have been remade from manually processed hreša and all original elements of floor tiles that have been found under the granite layer have been reused. The removed granite tiles are now placed on the access points of the bridge as a memento to Austro-Hungarian times. Although many elements of this bridge have been changed, when considering the quality of its restoration and the materials used, the essence of its authenticity has now been restored.

Dea Dudić (photo) is a student of the Architecture Faculty in Sarajevo. Translation and copyediting by Mirza Spužić, a student of the Architecture Faculty in Sarajevo.

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