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Committee Decisions

31 COM 8B.34

Nomination of natural, mixed and cultural properties to the world heritage list - Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad

The World Heritage Committee,

1. Having examined Documents WHC-07/31.COM/8B and WHC-07/31.COM/INF.8B.1,

2.Inscribes Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge in Višegrad, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the World Heritage List on the basis of criteria (ii) and (iv);

3.Adopts the following Statement of Outstanding Universal Value:

The universal value of the bridge at Višegrad is unquestionable for all the historical reasons and in view of the architectural values it has. It represents a major stage in the history of civil engineering and bridge architecture, erected by one of the most celebrated builders of the Ottoman Empire.

The bridge particularly bears witness to the transmission and adaptation of techniques in the course of a long historical process. It also bears witness to important cultural exchanges between areas of different civilizations. It is an exceptional representative of Ottoman architecture and civil engineering at its classical apogee. Its symbolic role has been important through the course of history, and particularly in the many conflicts that took place in the 20th century. Its cultural value transcends both national and cultural borders.

Criterion (ii):  Located in a position of geostrategic importance, the bridge bears witness to important cultural exchanges between the Balkans, the Ottoman Empire and the Mediterranean world, between Christianity and Islam, through the long course of history. The management of the bridge and repairs made it to have also involved different political and cultural powers: after the Ottomans came the Austro-Hungarians, the Yugoslav Federation, and the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Criterion (iv):  The Višegrad bridge is a remarkable architectural testimony to the apogee of the classical age of the Ottoman Empire, whose values and achievements mark an important stage in the history of humankind.

The property, principally consisting of the bridge, the access ramp and the two river banks upstream and downstream, is protected by its buffer zone on each bank of the Drina river. The integrity of the bridge is vulnerable but is now adequately protected by the buffer zone and appropriately expresses the values it embodies.

The Drina is a mountain river, drawing water from the mountains of the Balkans towards the Sava and the Danube Rivers. It is prone to flooding and the bridge parapets were destroyed in an exceptional flood in 1896. In addition, the bridge was severely damaged during both World Wars and, after temporary repairs, reconstructed in stone in the early 1950s.

Despite these historical events, authenticity has generally been maintained through the course of the bridge's successive restorations. It remains fragile, its foundations being particularly threatened by the use of the two hydro-electric power stations, one in Bosnia and one in Serbia, that affect the water levels of the river.

To allay this threat, the Serbian Ministry of Mines and Energy wrote to the Bosnian Commission to Preserve National Monuments on 27 June 2007. It supports the inscription of the bridge on the World Heritage List and also supports the formation of a bi-national working group to analyse the impact of power generation operations on the river in order to preserve the bridge. This initiative will complement the legal protection and management plan already in place.

4. Recommends the State Party to:

     a) Carry out the urgent work of restoring the foundations and piers, and more generally the technical organization of the structural reinforcement of the bridge and then of its restoration-conservation in the long term;

     b) Strengthen the concerted management of water levels by the power stations of Bajina Bašta and Višegrad, from the viewpoint of: flooding management; the return of the water level to a level compatible with the expression of the outstanding universal value of the property; the integrity of the structural bases of the bridge, which are currently being affected by the management of the dams;

     c) Plan for the ultimate replacement of the current parapets, which are heavy and do not conform to the original, by fine stone slabs, matching the documentation on the ancient bridge, prior to the flooding of 1896;

     d) Continue and enforce the activities on protection, restoration and conservation that the State Party has been undertaking in accordance with the Management Plan.

Themes: Inscriptions on the World Heritage List
States Parties: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Session: 31COM