These days, the Slovenian town of Zidani Most is best known as a railroad junction. However, its name, which means “Stone Bridge” in Slovenian, serves as a reminder of several historic bridges built at the confluence of the Sava and the Savinja rivers – structures that helped to bring the Slovenian Lands closer together.
Historians don’t know when the first bridge in the area was built, but during a drought in the 19th century, the base of a Roman bridge suddenly emerged from the water. Several coins found were found nearby, enabling archeologists to determine that the bridge was built in the 3rd century B.C. It served as a vital link between the Roman towns of Emona – present-day Ljubljana – and Celeia.
However, the town’s name is of a more recent vintage. The first written mentions of Lapideo Ponti – Stone Bridge – date back to 1224. That’s when Leopold VI, the Duke of Austria, had a substantial bridge built over the Sava River, along with a new fort where a Roman-era watchtower once stood. For more than 200 years, the bridge connected the Slovenian Lands, before it was destroyed in a conflict between the Holy Roman Emperor and the influential Counts of Celje.
Two of the present-day bridges in Zidani Most have their origins in the 19th century. Archduke John of Austria had a road bridge constructed in 1826. Two decades later, an engineer named Eduard Heider embarked on an ambitious project: to construct the first railroad bridge over the Savinja. The bridge was curved, which made its construction very difficult. According to historian Ivan Mlinar, 1260 blocks of stone were used for its construction. Despite the challenges, the project was a success and enabled the opening of an important stretch of railroad between Vienna and the Slovenian capital.
The original railroad bridge still stands, but it was supplanted in 1930 by a more modern reinforced steel construction nearby. Used by international trains every day, that bridge is a reminder that Zidani Most remains a major transport junction – a role that the small settlement on the confluence of the Sava and the Savinja has had since the Roman era.