March 10, 2012
0142 MACEDONIA (Skopje) - The Stone Bridge
The valleys of the rivers Morava (which flows north and empties into the Danube) and Vardar (which flows south and empties into the Aegean Sea) form a continuous natural corridor between the Pannonian Basin and the Aegean Sea, inhabited and used as migration route since Neolithic. In Roman times, Balkan Peninsula was crossed from east to west by three imperial roads, all intended to unite Rome and Constantinopolis (Istanbul). The first two journeyed from Viminacium, located not far from Singidunum (Belgrade), one of them following the Danube course, and the other one, Via Militaris (Via Diagonalis), descending on Morava valley until Naissus (Niš), and reached to Constantinopolis through Serdica (Sofia) and Philippopolis (Plovdiv). The third, the famous Via Egnatia, a continuation of the Via Appia, started from Dyrrachium (Durrës - Adriatic Sea) and also reached to Constantinopolis, through Thessalonice (Thessaloniki) and Aenus. Between Via Militaris and Via Egnatia was a road on the Vardar valley. So the mentioned corridor connected the three roads, being of utmost importance.
Since then and until today this route facilitated trade and cultural exchanges, but also invasions and movement of the armies, and in nowadays it carries the pan-European corridor X and European road E75. Skopje (Scupi for Romans, Skoplje for Serbs and Üsküp for the Ottomans), the capital of Republic of Macedonia, is located on this corridor, which brought both good and bad. As a result, the river Vardar (Axios for Greek, meaning the same thing: dark river) is depicted on the coat of arms of the city, which in turn is incorporated in the city's flag. On the coat of arms of Skopje is also the Stone Bridge (Kamen Most), that depicted in the postcard received from Ana (many thanks, Ana).
The Stone Bridge connects Macedonia Square, in the center of Skopje, to the Old Bazaar, the largest bazaar in the Balkans outside Istanbul. It seems that a first bridge was built by the Romans in the 6th century AD, immediately after the disastrous 518 earthquake, when also the classical town of Scupi was devastated. The current bridge was built under the patronage of Sultan Mehmed II the Conqueror between 1451 and 1469, and was first mentioned in the vakafnamata (records) of Isa - Beg's Aladza Mosque, in 1469. According to the description of the Venetian Giacoppo Soronze, who stopped on Skopje in 1575, on his way to Istanbul, the shape of the bridge consisted of 13 vaults with a total length of 329 local feet (or 213.85m), and a width of 6.33m.
The Bridge was built of masterly and precisely aligned travertine blocks, jointed by iron rods, and strengthened by cast lead, chiseled stone and mortar applied inside the pillars. Some of them, for example the central pillar, which in the upper section ends with a decorative niche (a sentry box) similar to mihrab - in the interior have large rooms with double function, primarily to minimize the overloading of the pillar, and then to serve as a loophole. During its designing, also the decoration of the facades was taken into account, by using the renown ornamental elements of the Islamic secular and sacral architecture.
Throughout the centuries, the Stone Bridge was often damaged and then repaired. It suffered during the disastrous earthquake of 1555, which ruined or heavily damaged 4 pillars, and it was reconstructed in 1579. Other repairs have been recorded in 1817-1818, 1885, 1896-1897 and 1909 (when the roadway was widened from 6.33 to 9.80 m). In 1944, explosives were placed on the bridge by nazy, but the activation of the dynamite was prevented and the bridge was saved. In 1992 a new reconstruction activity was undertaken, aimed at restoring its original shape. Thus, the sidewalks above the iron consoles were removed, and the original width of the bridge was restored. Today, the bridge can be crossed only by foot.
Many executions have also taken place on this bridge, such as the one of the leader of the peasant’s uprising in 1689, Duke Karposh (nicknamed King of Kumanovo), who was gruesomely impaled and thrown from the bridge into the River Vardar. A memorial plaque can be found in the middle of the bridge.
The bridge is also less frequently known as the Dušan Bridge after Stephen Uroš IV Dušan, commonly known as Stephen Dušan or Dušan the Mighty, the King of Serbia (from 1331) and Emperor of the Serbs and Greeks (from 1346, crowned at Skopje), until his death, in 1355.
The stamp, issued on November 20,1998, is part of the series of two named Christmas and New Year. The other stamps in the set has a value of 4 deni.
sender: Ana Racić (direct swap)
sent from Skopje (Macedonia), on 24.12.2011
foto: Vlaho Brangolica