Decisions on Designation of Properties as National Monuments

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Šeher Ćehaja's bridge, the historic monument

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Status of monument -> National monument

Pursuant to Article V para. 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Article 39 para. 1 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, at a session held from 25 to 31 January 2005 the Commission adopted a






The historic building of the Šeher-ćehajina bridge in Sarajevo is hereby designated as a National Monument of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the National Monument).

The provisions relating to protection measures set forth by the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of the Federation of  BiH nos. 2/02, 27/02 and 6/04) shall apply to the National Monument.




The Government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the Government of the Federation) shall be responsible for ensuring and providing the legal, scientific, technical, administrative and financial measures necessary to protect, conserve, and display the National Monument.

The Commission to Preserve National Monuments (hereinafter: the Commission) shall determine the technical requirements and secure the funds for preparing and setting up signboards with the basic data on the monument and the Decision to proclaim the property a National Monument.




Protection Zone I consists of the bridge.  The following protection measures shall be carried out in this zone:

  • all new construction is prohibited, but the repair, restoration and conservation of the bridge may be carried out subject to approval from the federal ministry responsible for regional planning (hereinafter; the relevant ministry) and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (hereinafter: the heritage protection authority);
  • all methods and degrees of interventions must be identifiable;
  • all infrastructure works are prohibited unless in exceptional cases with the approval of the relevant ministry and under the expert supervision of the heritage protection authority.




            All executive and area development planning acts not in accordance with the provisions of this Decision are hereby revoked.




Everyone, and in particular the competent authorities of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Canton, and urban and municipal authorities, shall refrain from any action that might damage the National Monument or jeopardize the preservation and rehabilitation thereof.




            The Government of the Federation, the Federal Ministry responsible for regional planning, the Federation heritage protection authority, and the Municipal Authorities in charge of urban planning and land registry affairs, shall be notified of this Decision in order to carry out the measures stipulated in Articles II to V of this Decision, and the Authorized Municipal Court shall be notified for the purposes of registration in the Land Register.




The elucidation and accompanying documentation form an integral part of this Decision, which may be viewed by interested parties on the premises or by accessing the website of the Commission (http://www.aneks8komisija.com.ba) 




Pursuant to Art. V para 4 Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, decisions of the Commission are final.




On the date of adoption of this Decision, the National Monument shall be deleted from the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of BiH no. 33/02, Official Gazette of Republika Srpska no. 79/02, Official Gazette of the Federation of BiH no. 59/02, and Official Gazette of Brčko District BiH no. 4/03), where it featured under serial no. 530.




This Decision shall enter into force on the date of its adoption and shall be published in the Official Gazette of BiH.


            This Decision has been adopted by the following members of the Commission: Zeynep Ahunbay, Amra Hadžimuhamedović, Dubravko Lovrenović, Ljiljana Ševo and Tina Wik.



25. - 30.01.2005.


                                                           Chair of the Commission

Amra Hadžimuhamedović


E l u c i d a t i o n




Pursuant to Article 2, paragraph 1 of the Law on the Implementation of the Decisions of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments, established pursuant to Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a “National Monument” is an item of public property proclaimed by the Commission to Preserve National Monuments to be a National Monument pursuant to Articles V and VI of Annex 8 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina  and property entered on the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Official Gazette of  BiH no. 33/02) until the Commission reaches a final decision on its status, as to which there is no time limit and regardless of whether a petition for the property in question has been submitted or not.

            The Commission to Preserve National Monuments issued a Decision to add the Šeher-ćehajina bridge to the Provisional List of National Monuments of Bosnia and Herzegovina, numbered as 530.

Pursuant to the provisions of the law, the Commission proceeded to carry out the procedure for reaching a final decision to designate the Property as a National Monument, pursuant to Article V of Annex 8 and Article 35 of the Rules of Procedure of the Commission to Preserve National Monuments.




In the procedure preceding the adoption of a final decision to proclaim the property a national monument, the following documentation was inspected:

  • Data on the current condition and use of the property, including a description and photographs, data of war damage, data on restoration or other works on the property, etc.
  • Documentation on the location and current owner and user of the property
  • Historical, architectural and other documentary material on the property, as set out in the bibliography forming part of this Decision.


The findings based on the review of the above documentation and the condition of the site are as follows:


1. Details of the property



The bridge spans the river Miljacka andn is located opposite the City Hall in Stari Grad Sarajevo Municipality, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Historical information

            The area of present-day Sarajevo has been settled since Neolithic times, through the Illyrians and Romans, to a mediaeval market and the rural villages Koševo, Bistrik, Bjelave, Radilovići and Brodac.   There was a settlement, town or market known as Vrhbosna or Vrhbosanje in the mediaeval župa (county).   The earliest details of this settlement date from the 15th century.

            The year 1462, when the vakufnama (deed of perpetual endowment) of Gazi Isa-beg Ishaković was drawn up, is regarded as the date when Sarajevo began to develop as an urban area.  The town was founded on a planned basis, and developed along the Miljacka valley during the 15th and 16th centuries.

            Isa-beg Ishaković was the first Bosnian governor.  During the 15th century he built a mosque on the left bank of the Miljacka, followed by a bridge over the river, known as the Careva ćuprija or Emperor's bridge.

            During the Ottoman period the sixteenth century was an important period in the urban development of Sarajevo, thanks to Gazi Husrev-beg, the most important Bosnian governor of these parts.  With the numerous edifices he erected and endowed, he turned Sarajevo into a major city or šeher, known throughout Europe and the vast Ottoman Empire.  In addition to mosques, medresas, tekkes, mektebs and libraries, many public facilities such as bridges over the Miljacka, hammams and public fountains were built.  A greay many commercial buildings were also erected, such as bezistans (covered markets), hans (hostels) and caravanserais, and large numbers of shops, magazines and daire (a group of shops and magazines under a single roof, around a central courtyard with a single entrance).

Thanks to its geographical position and natural conditions, since ancient times the valley of the river Miljacka had been a major east-west route, and particularly during the Ottoman period, when the Istanbul road became the backbone of the entire Balkans, and Sarajevo the most important city in the north-western regions of the Ottoman Empire.  The Miljacka valley became much frequented, leading to the construction of bridges.  From the Kozja ćuprija (Goat bridge) to the Ali Pasha bridge, a total of thirteen bridges were built, five of which were of stone.   The finest of Sarajevo's bridges were built by the end of the 16th century.  Following the Careva and Skenderija bridges, the third of Sarajevo's famous bridges was built in the first half of the 16th century – a bridge on the site of the present-day Latin bridge.  This was followed in 1557 by the fourth bridge, the Čobanija, and in 1567 by the fifth, the Ćumurija.  In 1585, the bridge below Alifakovac was built – now the Šeher-ćehajina ćuprija or bridge of the Šeher-ćehaja (mayor) of the city.

Each of these structures was dictated by the development of communications and certain specific public buildings on both banks of the river, requiring that they be linked.  In old Sarajevo, traffic did not follow the course of a river; far more frequently, the river wove its way between greenery and houses, through gardens, along poplar-lined roads.  It became a recreation within easy reach, and wherever possible it became an extension of the living area, houses were built facing it, buildings resembling lake-dwellings sprang up, and arbours and coffee-houses projected out right over the water.  The Miljacka was thus the lifeline, the jugular vein of the city, and the bridges were the cross-links of the city over the river (Čelić, Mujezinović, 1969, p. 83).

Three of the bridges over the Miljacka have survived, the Goat bridge, the Šeher-ćehaja bridge and the Latin bridge.  In their original form, they must have been valuable examples of Turko-Oriental bridge architecture, and can be ascribed to builders who had served their apprenticeship in Turkish schools, although we do not know their names.  All of them were rebuilt in the 18th century, by local masons.  They are creations of the east interpreted in the manner of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which accords them particular value (Čelić, Mujezinović, 1969, p. 72).

The old Šeher-ćehaja bridge is opposite the City Hall, hard by Bendbaša.  It spans two opposite slopes of the city, Nadmlina on the right bank and Alifakovac on the left bank, at the foot of which is the Vekil-Harč mosque dating from the mid 16th century.  The name Šeher-ćehaja bridge, or Šeherija for short, is the only name by which this bridge is known both to local people and in documents.  Little is known from the sources or in the relevant literature about the Šeher-ćehaja bridge, its date of construction, who built it and who founded it.  The name suggests that it was either built or rebuilt (renovated) by one of Sarajevo's šeher-ćehajas or mayors. One of the legends associated with the bridge suggests that it was built by Hajji Husein(1). 

The Šeherija was probably built as early as the 16th century, since it was necessary to link the two opposite banks of the river at the entry to the city with the Istanbul road.  One document that could indicate the date when the bridge was built, and its vakif [legator], has survived in transcription: a chronogram, found in the Mostar city archives.

Alija whom they call Hafizadić

In the name of God has built this good deed,

A bridge built in this way has not been seen

Even by those who have travelled widely.

When the bridge was built, Hadi composed this chronogram for it:

«This is a wondrous crossing.»

The chronogram refers to a bridge in Bendbaša in Sarajevo, and since this is the only stone bridge in Bendbaša, the inscription must certainly pertain to the Šeher-ćehaja bridge. The inscription reveals that the bridge was built in 994 AH (1585/86) by one «Alija whom they call Hafizadić.»  The author of the chronogram is the poet Hadi (Nihadi), who also composed the chronogram on the Višegrad bridge.

The bridge was probably rebuilt after the disastrous flood that befell Sarajevo in 1619/20, when six bridges, including the Šeher-ćehaja bridge, were swept away(2).

In 1843 the Miljacka rose, and two of the abutment piers of the Šeher-ćehaja bridge were swept away, leading to damage to the three arches by the right bank of the river.  The repairs to the bridge were financed by Mustafa-pasha Babić (Mustaj-beg Babić), whose konaks (residences) were on the right-hand side of the bridge.  A surviving inscription on the renovated part of the bridge records this.

«This part of the bridge was demolished by a great flash-flood,

It was renovated by Mustafa-pasha, may he live long.»

In 1880 the bridge was again damaged by a flood, and in 1881 the Sarajevo city authority carried out repairs.

In 1897, when works were carried out on the regulation of the channel of the river Miljacka, major changes to the bridge ensued.  One of the five arches of the bridge, the one on the left bank of the Miljacka, was buried under the embankment, and in 1904 the stone parapet of the bridge was removed and consol-supported footways with an iron railing were added.

The penultimate repairs to the bridge were carried out in 1987, when the load-bearing parts of the bridge, the footways, the roadway and the parapet were renovated.

In 1999-2001 repair, reconstruction, restoration and conservation works were carried out on the Šeher-ćehaja bridge in line with the Main Project drawn up by the Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo.


2. Description of the property


Located in a picturesque setting at the base of the Alifakovac slopes, the Šeher-ćehaja bridge is of value not only as an individual monument of the architecture of the Ottoman period, but also as an inseparable part of the townscape of old Sarajevo (N. Mujezinović, 2001, p. 8).

            The Šeher-ćehaja bridge, the residential quarters on the Alifakovac slopes, and Nadmlina, together compose a single townscape, and in particular there is direct contact between the bridge and the Vekil-Harč mosque and graveyard at the base of Alifakovac.

            In general aspect the bridge has certain similarities with the Latin bridge, as regards the choice of structural system and the selection of building materials and methods.

           The old Šeher-ćehaja bridge was built at a point where the channel of the river Miljacka is relatively wide and low, so that the only possible structural solution was one with several arches and piers.

            The channel of the river Miljacka is spanned by a massive stone bridge with four arches and three piers in the river.  Previously it had five arches and four piers, but when regulatory works were carried out on the river channel one arch and one pier were buried under the embankment on the left bank.

            The piers are triangular on the upstream side and polygonal on the downstream side.  They stand on bases of varying heights, and there are also variations in the basic shape of the base.  They were built in the usual way for Ottoman bridge-building of the 16th to 19th centuries, and terminate in pyramidal crowns below which are moulded string courses (N. Mujezinović, 2001, p. 9).

            All three piers have sharply pointed breakwaters on the upstream side, in the shape of equilateral triangles with the base abutting onto the facade of the bridge.  On the downstream side, the piers terminate in a polygonal projection.  As a result, the piers are markedly longer than the width of the bridge, and act as buttresses against the pressure of flood waters.  The piers are wider at the base by a single or double step, but the treatment of the bases is characterized by inequalities.  The height of the base of the first pier is 20 cm, and that of the others is 50 cm.  The first pier terminates in a string course at a height of 2.4 m above ground level, and the second and third at a height of 2.75 m.  Above the string course, the walls terminate pyramidally, three-sided on the upstream side and polygonal on the downstream, the height of these pyramidal top sections ranging from 1.40 to 1.75 m.

           The foundations were probably of the classic type.  The piers of the bridge are presumably set on a floor grid, and the piers themselves were built in the classic manner.

The smallest of the four arches is that by the right bank, with a span of 7.20 m; the second has a span of 7.35 m, and the third and fourth are equal in span at 7.85 m each.  The fifth arch presumably had a span of around 7.20 to 7,35 m.  The arches are supported by piers of approximately the same width, 2.4 to 2.5 m.  The approaches to the bridge are minimal, since the embankments are almost vertical.  As a result, the overall length of the bridge is 39.55 m.  If the assumed span of the fifth arch of approx. 7.30 m is added to this, along with the approaches on each bank of approx. 2.00 m, the original overall length of the Šeherija bridge would have been about 51 metres.

The line of the arches, both lower and upper, which is concentric with the lower, is semicircular in each case, apart from the first arch on the right bank, which is somewhat compressed to nearer an oval or ellipse.  The height of the arches as measured from the enlarged bases of the piers is half that of the span, apart from the first arch where the height is 20 cm less than the radius.  The thickness of the barrels is constant at 45 cm (Čelić, Mujezinović, 1969, pp. 90-94).

Originally, the bridge had a parapet of stone slabs fixed to the string course, which is tangential to the apex of the arches.   The slope of the roadway alters direction in the axis of the second arch from the left bank.

There are no prominently moulded stone string courses or other mouldings above the spandrel walls, decoration on the piers, or the like. The arches are slightly set back in relation to the spandrel walls, giving a certain plasticity to the facades. The voussoirs project slightly outwards, and the string courses are very simply moulded.

           The bridge is built of several different kinds of stone.

           The arches, spandrel walls and barrels are of yellowish-brown tufa.  The revetment of the piers is mainly of two kinds of limestone: dark grey, and greyish-white.  The exceptions are the tops of the piers between the second and third arch on the upstream side and the second, third and fourth on the downstream side.  Here conglomerate of a dirty grey with an admixture of greenish tones was used.  The conglomerate features on both piers only in the upper section, in two to four courses.

All the bases of the piers are of white limestone.  The crowns of the piers are of tufa.  The parapet and original string course of the bridge were of limestone and local quarrystone.

The blocks in the spandrel walls and arches are fairly even, of equal height and varying lengths.  The finish on the ashlar limestone blocks on the revetment of the piers is rather finer and more precise than that of the tufa blocks.  The infill of the barrels is quarry stone in mortar, and the roadway is paved with slabs cut into the shape of pavé


3. Legal status to date


By Ruling of the National Institute for the Protection of Cultural Monuments and Natural Rarities no. 02-622-2 dated 18 April 1962, the Šeher-ćehaja bridge in Sarajevo was placed under state protection.

The Regional Plan for Bosnia and Herzegovina to 2000 lists the Šeher-ćehaja bridge in Sarajevo as a Category I monument.

The Šeher-ćehaja bridge in Sarajevo is on the Provisional List of National Monuments of BiH under serial no. 530.


4. Research and conservation and restoration works


Over the centuries the bridge has undergone numerous repairs and alterations; subject to the ravages of time, parts of it altered by unsystematic, poorly-considered interventions, exposed to the constant damaging effects of the motor vehicle traffic that used it for many years, and finally affected by the five years of war.  As a result, prior to the most recent reconstruction it was in poor condition as regards both the state of preservation of its physical structure and the loss of authenticity.

The first first major intervention to the bridge followed the great flood that befell Sarajevo in 1619/20, when six bridges over the Miljacka, including the Šeher-ćehaja bridge, were swept away.

           During regulatory works on the channel of the river Miljacka, major changes were made to the bridge. In 1897, one of the five arches of the bridge, the one by the left bank of the Miljacka, was buried by the embankment, and in 1904 the stone parapet of the bridge was removed and consol-supported footways with an iron railing were added.

The Main Project for the repair, restoration, reconstruction and conservation of the Šeher-ćehaja bridge was drawn up by the Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo, begun in December 1998 and completed in April 1999.  The project consisted of two stages: a structural stage (Project for structural repairs, drawn up by Prof. Dr. Zlatko Langof, civil engineer) and a conservation stage (Project for conservation and restoration works and for reconstruction works, drawn up by Nermina Mujezinović, architect).  The work on the technical documentation consisted of the following components:

  • Stage Zero: research works
  • Stage One: drawing up the project for conservation and restoration works
  • Stage Two: drawing up the project for structural repairs
  • Stage Three: examination and evaluation of materials to be used in the restoration and reconstruction of destroyed or damaged elements.

While the Main Project was being drawn up, experts from very diverse professional backgrounds were consulted.  On site surveys were conducted by institutions specializing in such matters.

Implementation was divided into three stages.

  • The preparatory stage entailed works to demolish and dismantle later additions: the consol footways, longitudinal and transverse steel ties, and the footway of pavé and asphalt, as well as cutting off the infrastructure conduits over the bridge. At this stage, research works of various kinds were also carried out.
  • A range of different structural and other works were carried out as part of Stage One, such as repairs to the foundations, river piers, and three arches on the upper side, rebuilding the fourth arch (nearest the City Hall), repairs to and reconstruction of parts of the spandrel and wing walls, and resolving the problem of removing and protecting the stone components. These works were completed in November 1999.
  • Stage Two, the final stage, provided for the completion of interventions designed to restore the authentic appearance of the bridge by means of the restoration and reconstruction of damaged or missing original components and conservation works on surviving original components.  The works entailed reconstruction of the string course, parapet, footway surface of "pavé" and the base layers under it, restoring the original level of the footway and conservation works on the facade.  This also entailed certain interventions to the immediate surroundings – making good the actual approaches to the bridge on the left and right banks.


5.  Current condition of the property


An on site inspection ascertained as follows:

The Šeher-ćehaja bridge in Sarajevo has been restored in such a way that its authentic appearance and original use as a footbridge only have been restored.

            The bridge was reopened on 19 December 2001.

            Reconstruction, structural repair and restoration and conservation works have been carried out, as has the reconstruction of lost or destroyed components of the bridge.




Applying the Criteria for the adoption of a decision on proclaiming an item of property a national monument (Official Gazette of BiH nos. 33/02 and 15/03), the Commission has enacted the Decision cited above.

The Decision was based on the following criteria:

A.  Time frame

B.  Historical value

C.  Artistic and aesthetic value

C.iii. proportions

C.iv. composition

C.vi. value of construction

D. Clarity (documentary, scientific and educational value)

D. iv. evidence of a particular type, style or regional manner

E. Symbolic value

E.iii. traditional value

E.v. significance for the identity of a group of people

F. Townscape/ Landscape value

F.ii. meaning in the townscape

H. Rarity and representativity

H.i. unique or rare example of a certain type or style


            The following documents form an integral part of this Decision:

  • Photodocumentation;
  • Drawings




1969.    Čelić, Džemal, Mujezinović, Mehmed, Stari mostovi u Bosni i Hercegovini (Old Bridges in Bosnia andn Herzegovina) Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1969.


1991.    Kreševljaković, Hamdija, Izabrana djela III – banje, vodovodi, hanovi i karavansaraji, (Selected Works III – baths, water mains, hans and caravanserais) Veselin Masleša, Sarajevo, 1991.


2001.    Cantonal Institute for the Protection of the Cultural, Historical and Natural Heritage of Sarajevo, Šeher-ćehajin most, sanacija, rekonstrukcija restauracija,konzervacija (Šeher-ćehaja bridge, repair, reconstruction, restoration, conservation) Sarajevo 2001.


(1) The legend has it that in 1610 the "famous Hajji Husein Hodžić, who was šeher-ćehaja or governor of the city, lived in Sarajevo.  Hajji Husein had a son, Mustafa, a good merchant.  On one occasion Mustafa left for Stamboul on business. He took a fancy to the daughter of the imperial terzibaşı [head of the tailors' trade] and settled for good in Stamboul.  Since Mustafa's father had no other children, and was left all alone, he resolved to leave a memento to himself, and began to build a hair [charitable endowment], a stone bridge over the Miljacka, which is still known as the Šeherćehajina ćuprija."  He was unable to complete the bridge, since he soon died, and the building works were suspended.  When his son heard of this, he returned to Sarajevo and completed the bridge.  The legend goes on to relate that his wife soon died and was buried in Alifakovac, where he built a turbe [mausoleum] for her and himself.

(2) A Zadar document relates that the Šeherija was one of six bridges damaged by flood in 1619, and that Hadi's inscription was lost at that time.


Šeher Ćehaja's bridge in SarajevoŠeher Ćehaja's bridge after regulation of Miljacka Šeher Ćehaja's bridge, photo from 2000Šeher Ćehaja's bridge, upstream facade
The works at the bridge The plan and facade, reconstructionFacade from Austro-Hungarian period  

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