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A stone bridge in the village Bratač near Nevesinje: Ovčiji Brod Bridge – a masterpiece by an unknown builder

MN This unusual bridge has been nominated and is a potential candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage List

The bridge, in the village Bratač near Nevesinje, which connects the banks of the river Zalomka, was called by the locals Ovčiji Brod (Sheep Ship). There is no exact information on its construction, but it is assumed that it was erected by the Ottomans, probably in the 16th century.

The construction method reminds of the Old Bridge in Mostar. This unusual bridge has been nominated and is a potential candidate for the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Oasis of Peace

There was no river during our visit, so anyone who does not know this part of the story will wonder why the bridge is there. The Zalomka River flows most of its course in the summer months as an underground river, making it the largest sinking river in Europe.

This bridge also served as a daily crossing route, when the Zalomka River flows on the surface. The fantastic and inimitable karst landscape in which the bridge is located, is a true oasis of peace and natural beauty. Herds of sheep were passed across the bridge, which in the spring go from low Herzegovina to high Herzegovina – towards Treskavica, Zelengora and Morine for grazing.

The bridge has been declared a national monument of BiH, and has been put on the List of Endangered Monuments because of its poor structural condition, biological deposits and inability to maintain it regularly. There are no signposts on the road between Gacko and Nevesinje, so the bridge is extremely difficult to find. The road to the bridge, after turning off the main road, is partly paved, followed by a bad and narrow gravel road.

According to historians, it is probable that there was a bridge at this site during the Roman Empire as well, since the Roman road leads directly to the bridge. There is also a legend that it was built by the widow of the Ljubović bey, together with the mosque in Odžak. But in 1664, the famous Turkish travel writer Evliya Çelebi did not mention the mosque in Odžak or the bridge, so they were probably not even built in that period.

A plaque with an Arabic-language inscription was found in the riverbed below the bridge, which stood on a fence and was probably destroyed during high water levels. The plaque was halved and the inscription became unclear due to the long water action. However, in cooperation with experts from the National Museum of BiH, two words were read, Hajrat and Mahmud.

Cultural Monument

Hajrat means an act that someone does to win rewards in this and that world. The name Mahmud most likely refers to Sultan Mahmud, who ruled from 1730 to 1754, and a bridge was erected in his honor. This board is the only material evidence to date that could determine the year of bridge construction.

It is completely built of stone and as such still defies the time and is one of the most visited cultural monuments in Nevesinje. The bridge has three semicircular openings, the first of which is slightly smaller along the left bank, with a span of seven meters, while the middle and right are equal, nine meters wide. The piers between the openings are 2.4 meters wide, while the total length of the bridge is 35.5 meters.

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