The Bosnian War of the early 1990s had many victims, both human and architectural. One of the best known among these was the Old Bridge of Mostar. Once one of the most iconic landmarks of Bosnia and the old Yugoslav federation, the bridge was destroyed by Croatian armed forces on November 9, 1993. It is unclear why the Croatian army would have destroyed such a historic bridge, except as an act of vengeance (of which there were many on all sides of the conflict), as the bridge had no military significance.
The bridge, a masterpiece of Ottoman Turkish architecture, was commissioned by none other then Suleiman the Magnificent, and designed by Mimar Hayruddin, a student of the famous Mimar Sinan. The construction began in 1557 and took nine years to complete. Elegant in its simplicity, the bridge consists of a single 30-meter-wide and 24-meter-high arc, connecting the steep riverbanks of Neretva river. Two towers protect the entrances to the bridge. These massive stone structures stand in sharp contrast to the streamlined silhouette of the bridge, only emphasizing its beauty.
The surrounding city of Mostar even owes its name to the bridge, "most" meaning bridge in Serbo-Croatian.
After the end of the Bosnian War, the bridge was reconstructed from 2001 to 2004. Much of original stone were salvaged from the bottom of the river. The rest was replaced with new blocks quarried from the same locations used for the original construction. A coalition of international organizations led by the World Bank and UNESCO financed the reconstruction.
Diving into river from the highest point of the bridge has been a test of courage for local young men for as long as anyone can remember. Official annual bridge-jumping competitions started in 1968. They are still held each summer.