An old bridge in eastern Bosnia has been put on UNESCO's World Heritage List, the second bridge in the Balkan country after the Old Bridge in Mostar to be recognized by the UNESCO, the organization's chief said in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo on Tuesday.
UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura presented Bosnia-Herzegovina's collective presidency with a certificate confirming the inclusion of the 16th century Ottoman bridge in the eastern Bosnian town of Visegrad into the world heritage list at a ceremony in Sarajevo.
The Mehmed-Pasha Sokolovic Bridge spanning the Drina River was built by the greatest architect of the Ottoman Empire of the time Mimar Sinan as a gift by Mehmed-Pasha Sokolovic, a famous Grand Vizier born in Visegrad in 1505 who served under as many as three Ottoman sultans.
UNESCO has recognized its "outstanding universal value," Matsuura said in the ceremony, adding that the bridge presents an extraordinary example of classic Ottoman architecture and was a great construction achievement.
The stone bridge, which is 179.5 meters long with a four-meter-wide road and 11 arches, was an important link on the trade route linking Bosnia with Istanbul. It was damaged and repaired on several occasions but it has kept its original form to this day.
It is considered endangered because of the erosion of its material caused by frequent changes in the level of the Drina River, which are due to the needs of a nearby hydroelectric power plant.
The World Heritage List includes 851 properties that UNESCO deems worth preserving for their cultural or natural value. Sites on the list are eligible for funding and technical assistance from UNESCO to help with protection and preservation.
Chairman of Bosnia-Herzegovina's Presidency Haris Silajdzic said at the ceremony his country considered its cultural heritage a bridge between East and West.
The bridge gained international fame when it was described by Yugoslav writer Ivo Andric in his novel "Na Drini cuprija" (The Bridge over the Drina River) which won its author a Nobel Prize for literature in 1961. The novel described the building of the bridge and life in Bosnia under the Ottoman Empire.
The bridge was declared a national monument in 2003 and was put on UNESCO's World Heritage List in June 2007.
Contrary to previous announcements, the ceremony at which the Bosnian authorities were presented with the certificate was not held on the Visegrad bridge.
The organizers of the event decided not to hold the ceremony on the bridge after the association of Muslim women "Women -- War Victims" announced plans to put a plaque on the bridge commemorating local Muslims killed in the 1992-1995 war at a ceremony that was to have coincided with the certificate-awarding ceremony.
Members of this association put the plaque on the bridge and read out the names of 3,000 Visegrad Muslims killed in the war.
(Xinhua March 26,2008)