Mostar (Serbian Cyrillic: Мостар, pronounced [mǒstaːr] ⓘ[a]) is a city and the administrative center of Herzegovina-Neretva Canton of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the historical capital of Herzegovina.
Mostar is situated on the Neretva River and is the fifth-largest city in the country. Mostar was named after the bridge keepers (mostari) who guarded the Stari Most (Old Bridge) over the Neretva during the Ottoman era. The Old Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, commissioned by Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century, is one of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s most visited landmarks, and is considered an exemplary piece of Islamic architecture in the Balkans.
Ancient and medieval history
Human settlements on the river Neretva, between Mount Hum and the Velež Mountain, have existed since prehistory, as witnessed by discoveries of fortified enceintes and cemeteries. Evidence of Roman occupation was discovered beneath the present town.
As far as medieval Mostar goes, although the Christian basilicas of late antiquity remained in use, few historical sources were preserved and not much is known about this period. The name of Mostar was first mentioned in a document dating from 1474, taking its name from the bridge-keepers (mostari); this refers to the existence of a wooden bridge from the market on the left bank of the river which was used by traders, soldiers, and other travelers. During this time it was also the seat of a kadiluk (district with a regional judge). Since Mostar was on the trade route between the Adriatic and the mineral-rich regions of central Bosnia, the settlement began to spread to the right bank of the river.
Prior to 1474 the names of two towns appear in medieval historical sources, along with their later medieval territories and properties – the towns of Nebojša and Cimski grad. In the early 15th century the county (župa) of Večenike covered the site of the present-day Mostar along the right bank of the Neretva, including the sites of Zahum, Cim, Ilići, Raštani and Vojno. It was at the center of this area, which in 1408 belonged to Radivojević, who built Cim Fort (prior to 1443). Mostar is indirectly referred to in a 1454 charter of King Alfonso V of Aragon as Pons (“bridge”), for a bridge had already been built there. Prior to 1444, the Nebojša Tower was built on the left bank of the Neretva, which belonged to the late medieval county still known as Večenike or Večerić. The earliest documentary reference to Mostar as a settlement dates from 3 April 1452, when Ragusans from Dubrovnik wrote to their fellow countrymen in the service of Serbian Despot Đorđe Branković to say that Vladislav Hercegović had turned against his father Stjepan and occupied the town of Blagaj and other places, including “Duo Castelli al ponte de Neretua.”.
In 1468 the region came under the rule of the Ottoman Empire and the urbanization of the settlement began. It was named Köprühisar, meaning fortress at the bridge, at the centre of which was a cluster of 15 houses. The town was organized into two distinct areas: čaršija, the crafts and commercial centre of the settlement, and mahala or a residential area.
The town was fortified between the years 1520 and 1566, and the wooden bridge rebuilt in stone. In 1519 (Hijri 925) the settlement was recorded as a castle and both as Mostar and as Köprühisar and it was inhabited by Muslims and Christians. It had four Muslim households and 85 Christian households. The stone bridge, the Old Bridge (Stari most), was erected in 1566 on the orders of Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and at 28 m (92 ft) long and 20 m (66 ft) high, quickly became a wonder in its own time. Later becoming the city’s symbol, the Old Bridge was designed by Mimar Hayruddin, a student and apprentice of Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan. In the late 16th century, Köprühisar was one of the towns of the Sanjak of Herzegovina. The traveler Evliya Çelebi wrote in the 17th century that:
the bridge is like a rainbow arch soaring up to the skies, extending from one cliff to the other… I, a poor and miserable servant of Allah, have passed through 16 countries, but I have never seen such a high bridge. It is thrown from rock to rock as high as the sky.
Austrian and Yugoslav period
Austria-Hungary took control over Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1878 and ruled the region until the aftermath of World War I in 1918, when it became part of the State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs and then Yugoslavia. During this period, Mostar was the main urban centre of Herzegovina. In 1881 the town became the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mostar-Duvno and in 1939, it became a part of the Banovina of Croatia. During World War II, Mostar was also annexed city in the Nazi German fascist puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia.
During the period of Austro-Hungarian rule (1878–1918), Mostar’s city council cooperated with the Austro-Hungarian administration to implement sweeping reforms in city planning: broad avenues and an urban grid were imposed on the western bank of the Neretva, and significant investments were made in infrastructure, communications and housing. City administrators like Mustafa Mujaga Komadina were central players in these transformations, which facilitated growth and linked the eastern and western banks of the city. Noteworthy examples of Austro-Hungarian architecture include Hotel Neretva, the Municipality building, which was designed by the architect Josip Vancaš from Sarajevo, residential districts around the Rondo, and Gimnazija Mostar from 1902 designed by František Blažek.
After World War II, Mostar developed industries producing plastics, tobacco, bauxite, wine, aircraft and aluminium. Several dams (Grabovica, Salakovac, Mostar) were built in the region to harness the hydroelectric power of the Neretva. The city was a major industrial and tourist center and prospered economically during the time of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Between 1948 and 1974 the industrial base was expanded with construction of a metal-working factory, cotton textile mills, and an aluminum plant. Skilled workers, both men and women, entered the work force and the social and demographic profile of the city was broadened dramatically; between 1945 and 1980, Mostar’s population grew from 18,000 to 100,000.
Because Mostar’s eastern bank was burdened by inadequate infrastructure, the city expanded on the western bank with the construction of large residential blocks. Local architects favored an austere modernist aesthetic, prefabrication and repetitive modules. Commercial buildings in the functionalist style appeared on the historic eastern side of the city as well, replacing more intimate timber constructions that had survived since Ottoman times. In the 1970s and 1980s, a healthy local economy fueled by foreign investment spurred recognition and conservation of the city’s cultural heritage. An economically sustainable plan to preserve the old town of Mostar was implemented by the municipality, which drew thousands of tourists from the Adriatic coast and invigorated the economy of the city. The results of this ten-year project earned Mostar an Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 1986.
According to the 1991 census, Mostar had 127,000 inhabitants with roughly an equal number of Bosniaks (34.6%) and Croats (34%), 18.8% Serbs, and 13.6% of those who declared themselves Yugoslavs or Others.
After Bosnia and Herzegovina declared independence from Yugoslavia in April 1992, the town was besieged by the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA), following clashes between the JNA and Croat forces. The Croats were organized into the Croatian Defence Council (HVO) and were joined by a sizable number of Bosniaks. The JNA artillery periodically shelled neighbourhoods outside of their control from early April.
On 7 June the Croatian Army (HV) launched an offensive code named Operation Jackal, the objective of which was to relieve Mostar and break the JNA siege of Dubrovnik. The offensive was supported by the HVO, which attacked the Army of Republika Srpska (VRS) positions around Mostar. By 12 June the HVO secured the western part of the city and by 21 June the VRS was completely pushed out from the eastern part. Numerous religious buildings and most of the city’s bridges were destroyed or severely damaged during the fighting. Among them were the Catholic Cathedral of Mary, Mother of the Church, the Franciscan Church and Monastery, the Bishop’s Palace and 12 out of 14 mosques in the city. After the VRS was pushed from the city, the Serbian Orthodox Žitomislić Monastery and the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity were demolished.
Throughout late 1992, tensions between Croats and Bosniaks increased in Mostar. In early 1993 the Croat–Bosniak War escalated and by mid-April 1993 Mostar had become a divided city with the western part dominated by HVO forces and the eastern part controlled by the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ARBiH). Fighting broke out in May when both sides of the city came under intense artillery fire. The city was divided along ethnic lines, with a number of offensives taking place, resulting in a series of stalemates. The Croat–Bosniak conflict ended with the signing of the Washington Agreement in 1994, and the Bosnian War ended with the Dayton Agreement in 1995. Around 2,000 people died in Mostar during the war.
Two wars (Serb forces versus Bosniak and Croatian and Croat-Bosniak war) left Mostar physically devastated and ethno-territorially divided between a Croat-majority west bank (with ca. 55,000 residents) and a Bosniak-majority old City and east bank (with ca. 50,000 residents), with the frontline running parallel to the Neretva River. Most Serbs had fled the city.
Since the end of the wider war in 1995, great progress has been made in the reconstruction of the city of Mostar. Over 15 million dollars has been spent on restoration. A monumental project to rebuild the Old Bridge, which was destroyed during the Bosnian War, to the original design, and restore surrounding structures and historic neighbourhoods was initiated in 1999 and mostly completed by spring 2004. The money for this reconstruction was donated by Spain (who had a sizable contingent of peacekeeping troops stationed in the surrounding area during the conflict), the United States, Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, and Croatia. A grand opening was held on 23 July 2004 under heavy security. In parallel, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture and the World Monuments Fund, with funding provided by the World Bank, undertook a five-year-long restoration and rehabilitation effort to regenerate the most significant areas of historic Mostar, and particularly the urban tissue around the Old Bridge. Also in July 2004, the Stari Grad Agency was launched to operate and maintain the restored buildings, including the Old Bridge complex, and promote Mostar as a cultural and tourist destination. In July 2005, UNESCO inscribed the Old Bridge and its closest vicinity onto the World Heritage List.
International reconstruction efforts also aimed at the reunification of the divided city. The February 1996 Mostar Agreement led to the adoption of the Interim Statute of the city the same month, and to a 1-year period of EU Administration of Mostar (EUAM), headed by former Bremen mayor Hans Koschnick, till early 1997. After six years of implementation, in 2003 OHR Paddy Ashdown established an “international commission for reforming Mostar”, whose final report noted how the HDZ/SDA power-sharing in Mostar had entrenched division and corruption, with “rampant parallelism” in administrative structures and usurpation of power by the municipalities over the City.: 5 A new Statute was negotiated, and finally imposed in February 2004 by OHR Paddy Ashdown.: 6 In November 2010, the Constitutional Court struck down as discriminatory the electoral framework for Mostar. The Bosniak and Croat ruling parties were unable, however, to reach a new compromise. Lacking a legal basis, local elections could not take place in Mostar in 2012 and 2016, and outgoing mayor Ljubo Bešlić (HDZ BiH) remained in office as the only person authorised to allocate the city budget on an emergency basis. Almost a decade without administration led to a decline in service provision, including trash collection. In October 2019 Irma Baralija won a case against Bosnia and Herzegovina at the European Court of Human Rights for the lack of elections in Mostar. Finally, a political deal, agreed under international mediation in June 2020, enabled legislative amendments in July 2020 and the conduct of the vote in Mostar on 20 December 2020.
Main article: Architecture of Mostar
Mostar has architecturally noteworthy buildings in a wide range of styles. Historicist architectural styles reflected cosmopolitan interest and exposure to foreign aesthetic trends and were artfully merged with indigenous styles. Examples include the Italianate Franciscan church, the Ottoman Muslibegovića house, the Dalmatian Ćorović House and an Orthodox church which was built as gift from the Sultan.
The Ottomans used monumental architecture to affirm, extend and consolidate their colonial holdings. Administrators and bureaucrats – many of them indigenous people who converted from Christianity to Islam – founded mosque complexes that generally included Koranic schools, soup kitchens or markets.
Out of the thirteen original mosques dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, seven have been lost during the 20th century for ideological reasons or by bombardment. One of the two 19th-century Orthodox churches has also disappeared, while the early 20th-century synagogue, after suffering severe damage in the World War II, has been converted into a theatre. Several Ottoman inns also survived, along with other buildings from this period of Mostar’s history, such as fountains and schools.
The majority of administrative buildings are from the Austro-Hungarian period and have neoclassical and Secessionist characteristics. A number of surviving late Ottoman houses demonstrate the component features of this form of domestic architecture – upper storey for residential use, hall, paved courtyard, and verandah on one or two storeys. The later 19th-century residential houses are predominantly in neoclassical style.
A number of early trading and craft buildings still exist, notably some low shops in wood or stone, stone storehouses, and a group of former tanneries round an open courtyard. Once again, the 19th-century commercial buildings are predominantly neoclassical. A number of elements of the early fortifications are visible. Namely the Hercegusa Tower dating from the medieval period, whereas the Ottoman defence edifices are represented by the Halebinovka and Tara Towers – the watchtowers on the ends of the Old Bridge, and a stretch of the ramparts.
The oldest single arch stone bridge in Mostar, the Kriva Cuprija (“Sloping Bridge”), was built in 1558 by the Ottoman architect Cejvan Kethoda. It is said that this was to be a test before the major construction of the Stari Most began. The Old Bridge was completed in 1566 and was hailed as one of the greatest architectural achievement in the Ottoman controlled Balkans. This single-arch stone bridge is an exact replica of the original bridge that stood for over 400 years and that was designed by Hajrudin, a student of the great Ottoman architect Sinan. It spans 28.7 m (94 ft) of the Neretva river, 21 m (69 ft) above the summer water level. The Halebija and Tara towers have always housed the guardians of the bridge and during Ottoman times were also used as storehouses for ammunition. The arch is a perfect semicircle 8.56 m (28.1 ft) in width and 4.15 m (13.6 ft) in height. The frontage and vault are made of regular stone cubes incorporated into the horizontal layers all along the vault. The space between vault, frontal walls and footpath is filled with cracked stone. The bridge footpath and the approaching roads are paved with cobblestones, as is the case with the main roads in the town. Stone steps enable people to ascend to the bridge either side. During the armed conflict between Bosniaks and Bosnian Croats in the Bosnian War in the 1990s, the bridge was destroyed by the HVO (Croatian Defence Council).
The Cejvan Cehaj Mosque, built in 1552, is the oldest mosque in Mostar. Later a madrasa (Islamic school) was built on the same compound. The Old Bazaar, Kujundziluk is named after the goldsmiths who traditionally created and sold their wares on this street, and still sells authentic paintings and copper or bronze carvings of the Stari Most, pomegranates (the natural symbol of Herzegovina) or the stećaks (medieval tombstones).
The Koski Mehmed Paša Mosque, built in 1617 is open to visitors. Visitors may enter the mosque and take photos free of charge. The minaret is also open to the public and is accessible from inside the mosque. Just around the corner from the mosque is the Tepa Market. This has been a busy marketplace since Ottoman times. It now sells mostly fresh produce grown in Herzegovina and, when in season, the figs and pomegranates are extremely popular. Local honey is also a prominent specialty, being produced all around Herzegovina.
Magazine Most, along with Šantić‘s Poetry Evenings, was most important outlet for cultural and artistic production in the city and the region, offering space for upstart poets and writers. Dani Matice Hrvatske is one of city’s significant cultural events and it is commonly sponsored by the Croatian Government and the Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Mostar Summer is another umbrella event which includes Šantić Poetry Evenings, Mostar Summer Festival and Festival of Bosnia and Herzegovina choirs/ensembles. The city is a home of music festival named Melodije Mostara (Mostar Melodies), which has been held annually since 1995. Theatre festivals include Mostarska Liska (organized by the National Theatre Mostar) and The Mostar Spring (organized by the Matica hrvatska Mostar).
Mostar art institutions include:
- Croatian Lodge “Herceg Stjepan Kosača”
- Cultural Center Mostar
- OKC Abrašević (English: Abrašević Youth Center)
- Pavarotti Music Centre
- Croatian National Theatre in Mostar
- National Theatre Mostar
- Museum of the Old Bridge
- Herzegovina Museum
- Mostar Youth Theatre
- Aluminij Gallery
- Birthplace of Svetozar Ćorović (Aleksa Šantić House)
- Muslibegović House
- World Music Centre
- Puppet Theatre Mostar
Mostar cuisine is balanced between Western and Eastern influences. Traditional Mostar food is closely related to Turkish, Middle Eastern and other Mediterranean cuisines. However, due to years of Austrian rule and influence, there are many culinary influences from Central Europe. Some of the dishes include ćevapčići, burek, sarma, japrak, musaka, dolma, sujuk, sač, đuveč, and sataraš. Local desserts include baklava, hurmašice, sutlijaš, tulumbe, tufahije, and šampita.
Mostar, and Herzegovina area in general, experience a modified humid subtropical climate (Cfa) under the Köppen Climate Classification, with cold, humid winters and hot, drier summers. In the summer months, occasional temperatures above 40 °C (104 °F) are not uncommon. In 1901, a temperature of 46.2 °C (115.2 °F) was measured in the city, which is the highest temperature to have ever been recorded in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The coldest month is January, averaging about 5 °C (41 °F), and the warmest month is July, averaging about 26 °C (78 °F). The sunniest months are between June and September. The remainder of the year is wet and mild. Mostar is the sunniest city in the country with an average of 2291 solar hours a year. Snow is relatively rare, and it usually melts within a few hours or days.
The city is served by Mostar railway station, with connections to the Capital and cross-border traffic with Croatia.
Mostar is an important tourist destination in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Mostar International Airport serves the city as well as the railway and bus stations which connect it to a number of national and international destinations. Mostar’s old town is an important tourist destination with the Stari Most being its most recognizable feature.
Some noteworthy sites include Bishop’s Ordinariate building, the remains of an early Christian basilica at Cim, a hamam (Ottoman public bath), clock tower (sahat-kula), Synagogue (1889) and Jewish Memorial Cemetery, Nesuh-aga Vučjaković Mosque, Hadži-Kurt Mosque or Tabačica, Metropolitan’s Palace (1908), Karagöz Bey Mosque (1557), Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (1873), Catholic Church and Franciscan Monastery, Ottoman Residences (16th–19th century), Crooked Bridge, Tara and Halebija Towers.
All information come from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The World War II Partisan Memorial Cemetery in Mostar, designed by the architect Bogdan Bogdanović, is another important symbol of the city. Its sacrosanct quality is derived from the unity of nature (water and greenery) with the architectural expression of the designer; the monument was inscribed on the list of National Monuments in 2006.
The Catholic pilgrimage site of Međugorje is also nearby as well as the Tekija Dervish Monastery in Blagaj, 13th-century town of Počitelj, Blagaj Fortress (Stjepan-grad), Kravica waterfall, seaside town of Neum, Roman villa rustica from the early fourth century Mogorjelo, Stolac with its stećak necropolis and the remains of an ancient Greek town of Daorson. Nearby sites also include the nature park called Hutovo Blato, archeological site Desilo, Lake Boračko as well as Vjetrenica cave, the largest and most important cave in Bosnia and Herzegovina.