The Malabadi Bridge
Permanent Delegation of Turkey to UNESCO
District of Silvan, Province of Diyarbakir
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The Historic Malabadi Bridge is located on the Batman Creek which disembogues to Dicle (Tigris) River at site of Çatakköprü within the district of Silvan on the border between the provinces of Diyarbakır and Batman. It is constructed at the narrowest section of the riverbed. The bridge is located approximately 104 km away from the modern city center of Diyarbakır, on the Ahlat highway which provides connection between the city of Diyarbakır via Van and Bitlis. The location of the bridge is also important as it is at the intersection point which provides connection to the northern Syria via Hasankeyf and Mardin as well as to the northern Mesopotamia through Midyat.
According to the epigraph dating to the year 1147, the bridge was constructed during Artuqids period and it was commissioned by Temür-tash of Mardin, son of Ilghazi and grandson of Artuq Bey. The bridge is deemed to be synthesized through the cultural accumulation attained by the Artuqids Dynasty, settled in Mardin, Diyarbakır and Hasankeyf, and the engineering - architectural genius of the northern Iran and the Antique and Medieval Age architecture in Anatolia. The bridge has survived with all its essential parts which has been functional since 12th century and is still in use for its original purpose today.
The bridge is the longest spanned stone arch bridge in the world with its pointed arch of 40.86m. Total length of the bridge is 281.67m., width 7.15 m. and a height, up to the keystone of the low water level is 24.50m. It also has five arches with the main arch at the middle. The efforts to settle the foundation of the bridge on the solid rocks caused an irregular geometry of the design. The span of the bridge crosses perpendicular to the river, but the roadway is at an angle to the river, so there are angular breaks in the east and west approaches. The approaches rise from ground level to meet the main span, which is a pointed arch high over the deepest part of the river. The arches of the bridge are bi-centered. There is an (0.40m height profile) ornamental belt (arşivolt) that continues along the main arch stone at 1.20 m height.
The bridge was built of ashlars and rubble stones of different size and dimensions. Brick was also used, especially for the construction of the vaulted ceiling of the chambers. In the bridge deck superstructure, chambers were built of brick vaults in order to relieve the pressure on the foundation. These chambers were also separately functioned. Evliya Çelebi, states in his travel book that there exist iron gates on both ends of the bridge in the form of portcullis and that travelers had to pay tribute tax when passing by the bridge. In addition, researchers, such as H. Von Moltke, Carl Ritter and A.Gabriel who travelled through Anatolia in 19th and 20th centuries contributed to provide important written and visual documents about the bridge.
Uprising as a continuity of spandrel walls, the parapets were constructed by the use of rough stone. To the upstream of the bridge, there exist triangularly shaped flood splitters while to the downstream side, such flood splitters are circular in form with pointed cones embroidered with human figures, lion and sun reliefs. The frontal pattern of the bridge is asymmetric. The bridge rises at an elevation of 12-20% up to the largest arch and descends at a rate of 17- 19% to Batman side which gives the bridge an environmentally harmonious shape.
Justification of Outstanding Universal Value
The Malabadi Bridge is one of the engineering and architectural masterpieces of the 12th century Artuqid Period due to its historic, symbolic and aesthetic significance within the context of the cultural data collected within the framework of the art of history. It is one of the most perfect examples through which the efforts by mankind to overcome the obstacles has been concretized in line with the engineering and architectural accumulation.
The bridge is also the only stone arch bridge managed to survive to date with its main arch in pointed form and with a span of 40.86m. Albert Gabriel who made a survey to the bridge in 1940 stated that " It is of particular concern to build up a bridge with such spanning where no static calculation could be made. The dome of Hagia Sophia would fit under the bridge without any difficulty. There is no any other bridge with such a spanning in the Balkans, Middle East and Turkey ". His speech is of particular importance since it makes an emphasis on the universal values.
The Malabadi Bridge is a unique and uncommon example for the bridges with human, sun and lion reliefs and the sanctuary and toilets appended to the bridge. The ornaments on the Malabadi Bridge show us that the bridge is a cultural and geo-political meeting point and much more than a simple bridge, with their elegance and superiority.
This monumental structure survived a period of nearly nine centuries under the natural conditions due to the engineering knowledge of materials used, the placement of the base and calculation of the arch width.
Criterion (iii): The Malabadi Bridge is an outstanding example for the 12th century Artuqid Period architecture. It is an exceptional work that reflects architectural, technological and artistic level achieved during this period due to its main arch in pointed form and with a span of 40.86m.
The bridge is considered to be combined through the cultural accumulation reached by the Artuqids Dynasty and the engineering - architectural brilliance of the Northern Iran and the Antique and Medieval Age architecture in Anatolia. The Bridge of Malabadi demonstrates the characteristics of Artuqids Period bridges with the reliefs on it but it differs from others as it hosts the bridge plan and key presentation scene on the reliefs.
Criteria (iv): The Bridge is a vivid structure that represents the architectural - engineering cultural accumulation dating back to medieval ages in the Artuqids architecture. The Bridge is a distinctive and rare example of the bridge types with human, sun and lion reliefs as well as the sanctuary and toilets attached to it.
Criteria (vi): The chambers within the Malabadi Bridge are not only built for the accommodation of the security staff, but also it served as the locations where folk singers made their presentations as a way of socialization which is still a local tradition in the South Eastern Anatolia.
Statements of authenticity and/or integrity
Integrity: The Bridge and the protected areas of the bridge cover holistically all outstanding universal values in terms of engineering, architectural design and site selection. The Malabadi Bridge is under protection by the Turkish Legislation for Preservation of Cultural and Natural Property, Law No: 2863. It was registered as an “immovable cultural property to be protected” by the decision of Superior Council for Immovable Antiquties and Monuments dated 14.03.1980 and numbered 11789, and updated the registration by the decision of Diyarbakır Regional Council for Conservation of Cultural and Natural Heritage dated 16.06.2004 and numbered 3447. The restoration and repair responsibility of the bridge belongs to the Directorate General of Highways.
The Bridge which provides a passageway for the road on which it is located for centuries has survived to date without any substantial structural damage. In order to prevent the gradually increasing disfiguration of the stones due to the effects of the variable water flow from the nearby dam and to correct the traces of the former misguided interventions, the conservation project and application works were carried out by the General Directorate of Highways in 2009 through 2013.
Authenticity: Although it is located on the first degree seismic zone and that it has been nearly 900 years since it was first constructed, the bridge has managed to survive to date without any substantial structural damage and preserving its historic, aesthetic, unique, authentic, functional and sustainable values. It has served for pedestrian, equestrian and vehicular traffic uninterruptedly. The epigraph evidencing its authenticity, the written and visual data as well as documents collected by the 19th and 20th century travelers are still available.
Comparison with other similar properties
The bridge is amongst one of the few and unique examples for the bridges with human, sun and lion relief along with the sanctuary on both ends of the bridge with stairs downside and the toilets. The reliefs on the bridge seem to be similar with the bridges constructed in Anatolia during Artuqids Period. To exemplify the bridges constructed during Artuqids Period in Anatolia which show similarities with the Malabadi Bridge are as follows: The Historical Dicle (Tigris,On Gözlü) Bridge on River Dicle (Tigris) in the Sub-District of Silvan of Diyarbakır Province (1065-1067), Historical Hasankeyf Bridge on River Tigris in the Sub - District of Hasankeyf in the Province of Batman, (1154-75) and Historical Bafid (Yafes, Ceziret İbn-Umar) Bridge on the borderline with Syria in the Sub-District of Cizre in Şırnak Province. However, The Malabadi Bridge is the largest stone arch bridge managed to survive to date with its main arch in pointed form at a length of 40,86m. In addition, it differs from others with its layout and key presentation scenes on the reliefs.Besides, the bridge has significantly contributed to the cultural and technical accumulation which paved the way for the construction of the Mostar Bridge (1557 - 1566) in Bosnia and Herzegovia included in the World Heritage List and Sokullu Mehmet Pasha Bridge (1571- 1577) in Bosnia and Herzegovina which is considered to be one of the landmarks of the Classical Age Ottoman Architecture in 16th century while it fully reflects the engineering and architecture genius of 12th century Artuqids Architecture.