(photo: Silvana Sidorovska-Čupovska, 2019)

According to archeological excavations, the bridge was built in the 6th century, immediately after the catastrophic earthquake of 518, at the height of construction work to rebuild the entire empire under the leadership of Emperor Justinian I. Other historical sources mention that the bridge was built during the rule of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror between 1451 and 1469. In historical sources, the bridge is mentioned in the waqf of the Isa Bey Mosque, i.e. the Alaja (Colorful) Mosque in 1469 (874 after Hijra). Built on the same site as it is today, the bridge connects the two banks of the Vardar River, enabling communication between the two sides of the city, which were constantly evolving and urbanizing. In 1575, the Venetian Jakobo Soronzo, who was passing through Skopje on his way to Constantinople, described the bridge as construction of 13 arches, with a total length of 329 steps (213.85 m) and a width of 6.33 m, which is, in fact, its original form. The bridge is built of travertine blocks reinforced with cast lead. Crushed stone and mortar were used for the construction of the interior of the columns. Some of the columns, including the middle one which in its upper part ends with a decorative niche (watchtower), have large rooms with space for placing riffles. Decorative elements (so-called stalactites) characteristic of Islamic profane architecture were used in the decoration of the facades.

Over the centuries the Stone Bridge has been repeatedly damaged and rebuilt. It was destroyed in the great earthquake of 1555 when four pillars were destroyed and severely damaged. The bridge was rebuilt in 1579 and managed to withstand four overflows of the river. The Turkish travel writer Evliya Čelebi, who resided in Skopje in 1660/1661, transcribed the following lines from the inscription on the marble slab: “When people saw the reconstruction of this unparalleled bridge, they praised it and said, ‘It is much more beautiful than it used to be.’”

In 1817/1818, during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II, a new intervention was carried out, for which, according to sources, 28,816 groschen and 2 asprons were paid. Interventions to maintain the bridge were made later. Thus, before 1885, construction work was undertaken to restore the arches and bows on the northeast side, using bricks for the arches and stone slabs for the lower parts of the pillars. In 1895 the bridge was once again under the impact of the strong water flows of the river Vardar and as a measure to regulate the river flow in this part, protective walls were built on the quay. Throughout the period, until 1909, the bridge had stone slab fences.

In 1944, during the withdrawal of German troops, the bridge was mined but was saved from collapse when the city was liberated, thus preventing the detonation of the dynamite. Since 1992, to restore the original appearance of the Stone Bridge, new interventions have begun for its reconstruction. The pavements on the iron cantilevers have been removed, giving the original width of the bridge.

The stone bridge has remained for centuries a passage through which tastes, habits, culture and diversity have been and are transmitted

Silvana Sidorovska-Čupovska

Културна урбана меморија ‒ мапирање на местата на сеќавање (КУМ)

Проект на Институтот за национална историја ‒ Скопје

Финансирано од Министерството за култура на Република Северна Македонија