Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

Ljubljana’s Dragon Bridge (Zmajski most)

Check out our Ljubljana Travel Guide

Built between 1900 and 1901, Ljubljana’s Zmajski Most can be found between Kopitar Street (Kopitarjeva ulica) and Ressel Street (Resljeva cesta). Built in reinforced concrete, Ljubljana’s Dragon Bridge (yes, that’s what Zmajski Most means) is a fine architectural example of art nouveau, built in the Vienna Succession style. While the bridge has a modern style, it’s adorned with four amazing sheet-copper dragons, designed by the bridge’s architect Jurij Zaninović.

In 1895 an existing old oak bridge,the Butchers’ Bridge (Mesarski most) was damaged beyond repair in a major earthquake (the so-called Easter Earthquake). As part of the rebuilding of Ljubljana (about 10% of the city was damaged by the earthquake), a new bridge was commissioned by mayor Ivan Hribar.

The new bridge was to be built using new methods available, making it one of Europe’s largest bridges at the time – the new techniques were also considerably more economical, which was no small point given the cost of rebuilding the city. The architect Giorgio Zaninovich (Jurij Zaninović), a student of the famous Otto Wagner, was given the task of designing what would be initially titled The Jubilee Bridge of the Emperor Franz Josef I (German: Franz Josef I. Jubiläumsbrücke, Slovene: Franca Jožefa I. jubilejni most).

The Dragons on the bridge are the city’s emblem, and one of the most photographed tourist attractions in Ljubljana, and there’s a great story behind them. According to legend, Ljubljana was founded by Jason, the Greek hero in the legend Jason and the Argonauts. According to Slovenian tradition, on their return from capturing the golden fleece, Jason and his argonauts sailed up the Danube, and then the Ljubljanica river. They encountered a dragon in the lake between modern day Ljubljanca and Vrhnika, which Jason slew. They then founded the city of Ljubljanca before heading back towards the Adriatic and Greece.