Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Bridge as new Building Type

The Bridge 

       Evidently bridges are no invention of the Ottoman engeneers. Already the Romans stood out in the construction of bridges and were frequently imitated by later civilizations, including the Ottomans. Monumental design and solid structure with evenly spaced arches that rest on massive piers characterize these bridges of Roman design. Representative examples are next to the Stone Bridge in Skopje(see picture below), the Emir Küçük Sultan's Bridge in Shtip or the Zhelino Bridge near Tetovo.

       A most flourishing trade, at least in the first three hundred years of the Ottoman Empire, required the construction of numerous roads and bridges throughout the vast territory. Kratovo, a small town in the Northeast of Macedonia, still preserves an astonishing accumulation of six bridges to connect the different parts of town. They were built at the heyday of the important mining industry in this vulcanic area.

      Contrasting with the solid Roman type of bridge the Ottomans built another type of bridge, particularly in the first years of their dominion of the Balkans. Generally smaller constructions to connect the banks of a river or a creek, they stand out with a special grace. It is this type of bridge I will present here because of its uniqueness.

Elen Skok Bridge

       No doubt, this type of bridge with Selchuk influence appears most singular to European eyes. The small structure in stone spans over the gushing river Garska, on the way to Lazaropole. A pronounced hump at its centre confers it a most graceful shape. The single lane without railing is covered with a cobbled stone pavement. Legend has it that the local Bey (Ottoman governor) of the region by building this bridge wanted to commemorate the gallant death of a deer he had been hunting. The animal, although wounded, continued to flee until it lept over the river. But once safely on the other side of the river, it died. The name  of the bridge, translated in Dear Leep Bridge gives a permanent testimony of this romantic story.

       Macedonia still preserves many works of civil engeneering from the Ottoman period. To get the whole picture of  this significant heritage please refer to my recently published illustrated book:
Teresa Waltenberger,  Architecture in Macedonia: The Ottoman Heritage,  Skopje 2014

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