Mehmed Sokolović (Sokollu Mehmed Paşa), of Serbian origin from Herzegovina, made his career as a statesman on the Ottoman Court. He was born in 1505 in the village of Sokolovići, near Višegrad, as Bajo, Bajica Sokolović. His family was an esteemed one, some sort of village aristocracy. He spent his early youth in the Mileševa Monastery, whence he was taken by the Janissaries when he was 18 and was converted to Islam. Mehmed Sokolović soon made his military career as a military commander, then the High Admiral of the Fleet, to reach the position of the Grand Vizier (Prime Minister) of the Ottoman Empire. He served under three sultans. He converted to Islam a great part of his family, even his father, granting them important administrative office positions in the Balkan part of the Empire. He made his family one of the most powerful ones on the Balkans and numerous converted Serbs represented some of the most influential forces in the Porte (the Ottoman Court). The Sokolović family had its Orthodox Christian as well as Muslim descendants – both the Bosnian beylerbeys and the Serbian patriarchs of Peć. In 1579 he was assassinated. After his death, the influence in Constantinople turns to the Arbanas.
In the Piva Monastery (Montenegro) there is a fresco painting where Mehmed-Pasha Sokolović was represented. It is a unique instance that a Muslim dressed in the Ottoman national costume was depicted in a Serbian monastery. However, it is a confirmation of the great significance this Ottoman statesman from Serbia had on this country.
Apart from being a clever statesman, Mehmed-Pasha was also a great donator. Besides the bridge on the Drina, he built the Arslanagić Bridge in Trebinje, a bridge on the Žepa, the Kozja Ćuprija (Goat’s Bridge) above Sarajevo, as well as mosques and caravanserais all over Bosnia and Serbia.
Owing to Mehmed Pasha Sokolović, in 1557, the Patriarchy of Peć was restored, with Makarije Sokolović, a Mehmed-Pasha’s relative, as the Patriarch. It was a period of prosperity of the Patriarchate, which covered the area from Buda to the Adriatic Coast. Numerous monasteries were restored at that time. Another four members of the Sokolović family became patriarchs. Following the Sokolović epoch, a long period of struggle for the Serbian liberation from the Ottoman rule started.
A Mehmed-Pasha’s relative, Makarije Sokolović – the Patriarch of the restored patriarchy of Peć.