Dragon Bridge (Slovene: Zmajski most) is a road bridge located in Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. It is situated in the northeast of Vodnik Square across the Ljubljanica river. Built in the beginning of the 20th century, the bridge is today protected as a technical monument.
The bridge was originally named The Jubilee Bridge of the Emperor Franz Josef I. But it lost its official name after opening and was unofficially renamed to the Dragon Bridge because of the four dragon statues at its four corners.
The bridge was built to replace an old wooden bridge constructed in 1819, which was damaged by a severe earthquake in 1895. For economic reasons, the municipal authorities took the decision to finance a reinforced concrete construction instead of a more expensive and less fashionable stone one. When the bridge was built, Ljulbljana was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the bridge was dedicated to Franz Joseph I of the Habsburg Dynasty to commemorate forty years of his rule from 1848–1888. Dragon Bridge was completed in 1901. The bridge was built during the administration of the mayor Ivan Hribar, as part of a wider plan of urban renovation of the town. The builder of the bridge was Austrian engineer Josef Melan, who specialized in reinforced concrete bridge-building, and it was designed by Dalmatian architect Jurij Zaninović, who was a graduate of Otto Wagner's school of architecture in Vienna.
In 1985, Dragon Bridge was thoroughly renovated and its centennial was celebrated in 2001.
Dragon Bridge is often regarded as the most beautiful bridge produced by the Vienna Secession. It is the first bridge in Slovenia paved with asphalt, the first reinforced concrete bridge in Ljubljana, and one of Europe's earliest reinforced concrete bridges. When completed in 1901, it had the third largest arch in Europe at that time. The bridge is built to the Melan System invented by Josef Melan, which gained popularity particularly in the United States and Germany because the bridges could be built without a supporting stage. Rigid truss arches made of iron are set into the reinforced concrete bridge. The load-bearing core of the bridge were the truss iron frames during construction. After concreting these became a part of the supporting structure.
Dragon Bridge is a triple-hinged arch bridge and has a span of 33.34 metres (109 ft 5 in). The bridge is noted for its Art Nouveau style designed by Jurij Zaninovich. He designed the concrete covering, the balustrades and the sheet-copper dragon statues of the bridge, which became a symbol of the city. The most important feature of the bridge are these four dragon statues standing on pedestals at its four corners.
There is a legend that Jason was the founder of Ljubljana, and he and his Argonauts killed a dragon. This is one of the four dragon statues in the bridge. According to local legends, when a virgin crosses the bridge, the dragons will wag their tails. Some local people have nicknamed this structure "mother-in-law" because of its fiery nature.