The Visegrad Bridge on Drina is the endowment of the Grand Vizier Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic (Turkish Sokollu Mehmet Paşa, 1505 or 1506 – 1579). He is one of the greatest Ottoman military commanders of Bosnian origin. He was born in the village Sokolovici near Rudo in 1505 or 1506 as a child of Orthodox parents. At that time, there was a practice known as the devshirme system, or “Tribute in blood”. Serbian children were forcibly taken to Turkey where they would be converted to Islam and trained in military schools to become Janissaries, the elite troops of the Ottoman Empire. So, from the area around Visegrad, a child, Bajica Sokolovic, was taken and was named Mehmed. He would later become an officer of the Ottoman army thanks to his ability, and at the height of his power he became the Grand Vizier i.e. the Prime Minister, by today’s standards. At the height of his power, he ordered a bridge to be built like no other in Visegrad on the Drina River.
The bridge was built in the period from 1571 to 1577 and was built by, at the time, the most famous Ottoman architect Koca Mimar Sinan. It was built in the oriental style and it represents a masterpiece of civil engineering of that era.
It has 11 arches with a slight incline towards the middle and it has a descending ramp on the left bank. Above the arches, along the entire length of the bridge spans a molded cornice above which the stands the bridge guard rail. The total length is 179.5 m, height above the normal water level of the river is 15.40 m and the width of the bridge is 6.30 metres. The bridge is built from tufa stone which was brought from the Visegrad Spa. There are expansions above the sixth pillar on both sides of the bridge. There are three openings made with pointed arches on the access ramp of the left bank. In the middle of the bridge a sofa was built and it was designed for passengers to rest and across from the sofa a stone portal was built.
In the middle of the bridge, there was once a small house with a wooden gate and bridge guards, so this part of the bridge was called the gate. There are two slabs made of white marble with verses of the poet Nihadi in Arabic script, talking about the builder and the year of construction.
The older, top inscription was inscribed in 1571/1572:
“On Drina in Bosnia he built a magnificent bridge
and pitched a row of arches on the river,
on top of the deep and noisy river.
His predecessors couldn’t build anything alike,
after the order of God, the great Pasha did,
so his name is mentioned with respect and gratitude
and he built a bridge no other in the world can match…”
This monumental building was an inspiration for the writer Ivo Andric for his famous novel “The Bridge on Drina”, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1961.
The bridge is one of the most important national monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina and it was entered in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage in July 2007.