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The Historic Bridge of Byala

Enshrined in the heart of Bulgaria's idyllic Byala town, the historic bridge designed by master Kolyu Ficheto stands as a majestic testament to the country's rich architectural heritage and the undying spirit of its people.

GuideBG Glimpse

The Story Behind The Bridge

Constructed over the Yantra River between 1865 and 1867, the Belensky Bridge, as it’s also known, was ordered by Midhat Pasha, the governor of the Danube Vilayet. The bridge’s inception was necessitated by the new highway crossing the river at Byala, connecting Ruse—the capital of the Danube Vilayet, with Istanbul, then known as Constantinople, the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

The construction proposal attracted two quotes, a high 3 million Grosh (the currency in Bulgaria at that time) from Polish engineer Ludmil Rola and a far more reasonable 700,000 Grosh from Kolyu Ficheto—the most renowned builder of the Bulgarian National Revival period. The stark contrast between these projected costs led Midhat Pasha to ask Ficheto if he stood by his offer, to which he confidently responded, “If, Pasha Effendi, I do not build the bridge to Byala for 700,000 Grosh and, on my term, take my head!” Ficheto, to ensure his calculations, for the first time, created a wax model of the bridge, a testament to his meticulous planning.

The Covered Bridge in Lovech – another bridge by Kolyu Ficheto

Assisted by blacksmiths from Gabrovo, carpenters and stonemasons from Tryavna and Dryanovo, and peasants from Byala, Ficheto oversaw the bridge’s construction. His excellent work earned him the “Medjidie” order from the Sultan, which was awarded by Midhat Pasha, a generous gift of land in Veliko Tarnovo, and an additional 50,000 Grosh.

The Bridge’s Architectural Prowess

The bridge, stretching 276 meters long and 9.5 meters wide, consists of 13 supporting pillars and 14 semi-circular arches. In the middle, a marble plaque with Arabic inscriptions adorns a column. This stone bridge is a remarkable creation of the Revival era, with symbolic sculptures—a griffin, a lion, a nymph, and a swan—embellishing the bearing pillars, making the bridge an art piece that uniquely combines architecture and sculpture.

The irregular masonry of the bridge is clad in dense, well-processed limestone. The vaults have a wavy finish, each resembling the façade of a building, with the holes shaped like open and closed windows—a unique aesthetic touch of its time.

However, the bridge was not immune to natural disasters. The devastating flood of 1897 damaged the western half of the bridge. A concrete extension replaced the damaged part in 1922-1923, and a statue of the builder was installed in 1977, paying homage to the mastermind behind this architectural marvel.

From the grandeur of its design to the tales of resilience etched in its stones, the historic bridge of Byala remains a valid symbol of Bulgaria’s rich heritage and unwavering spirit. As it undergoes its long-awaited restoration, it stands poised to bridge not just the Yantra River but the past and the future, creating a harmonious link between Bulgaria’s history and its vibrant present.

Essential details

Earliest cultural period:
Bulgarian Revival (1770 AD - 1900 AD)
Year of construction:

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