The Seljuk Han of Anatolia



A han with an intriguing name in Old Town Malatya, the apricot capital of the world. It has an offset axis and is located near the Malatya Ulu Cami, one of the most outstanding mosques built by the Seljuks.


Unal, 1983, p. 116




The ruined Çingene Han is located in Old Town Malatya, on the caravan route that passed by the outskirts of the city in the days when the han was operating. This dirt road no longer remains. The han is believed to have been originally built just outside the city walls. A similar application is seen in the Han Mosque which was built adjacent to the city walls of Kayseri.



There is no document or information in historical sources concerning the name of the han. The name of Mansur bin Yakup is mentioned in both the inscription plaque of the Malatya Ulu Mosque and the inscription of the tomb near the han, and it is believed that this person could be the patron of the han. As the patron’s name is commonly attributed to the han he built, the han should have been called the Mansur bin Yakup Han. However, the locals call this han the Çingene (“Gypsy”) Han, and no one knows quite why.



1224 (est.)



There is no inscription on the han. However, an inscription on a tomb near the han and thought to be written at a later period, includes the following statement: “May Allah bless Mansur bin Yakub and all those who wished blessings upon him."






A mosque in the center of Malatya, known as the Alibey or Saray Mosque, bears an inscription on its wall which is thought to belong to the Malatya Ulu Mosque. The name of Mansur bin Yakup is recorded here. A tomb known as Edir and Bedir Tomb lies 30m from the han. It has an inscription over a plastered stone wall. The Mansur bin Yakup who is mentioned in the inscription on this tomb is thought to be the same Mansur bin Yakup who is listed in the Ulu mosque inscription. Indeed, Mansur bin Yakup was responsible for commissioning a repair project for the Malatya Ulu Mosque. The repair inscription is dated to Hijri 621 / A.D. 1224. In the light of this information, the Çingene Han could have been built close to this date. The inscription is quite plain and not written in the traditional Seljuk nakshi style. However, traces of muqarnas below the inscription indicate that the inscription was once affixed to a building with muqarnas, and thus indicates that this inscription was original to the han.



Covered section with an open courtyard (COC)
Covered section smaller than courtyard
Covered section with 3 naves (a central aisle and 2 aisles on each side running perpendicular to the back wall)



The building, almost completely below ground level today, is oriented east-west. It has a combined plan with a covered section and a courtyard. The courtyard is wider than the covered section.


Courtyard: The courtyard section, which includes sections for services, is located in front of and in axis with the covered section. However, the entrances to the two sections are not on the same axis: the courtyard entrance is located in the south corner. The entrance to the courtyard was likely to have been from the south side close to the corner. The crown door of this section is also mostly in ruins.


The service rooms of the courtyard, covered with pointed barrel vaults, are placed on the east side of the courtyard and are in the form of iwans. The majority of the courtyard rooms are now almost completely buried under ground level today. However, two rooms, placed side by side to the east of the entrance, can be identified. One room is longer than the other. These rooms are covered with pointed vaults in the north-south direction. There is another room with an iwan facing the courtyard near these rooms, and there are traces of adjoining rooms on the north side. The six rooms situated side by side on the north side in the courtyard must have served as private accommodation rooms. Considering the traces of piers in the south wing, the court probably had an arcade.


The walls of the service sections are reinforced with support towers placed in a row in the north and south directions. There are four support towers on the north and three on the south. In addition to these, there are traces of three support towers on the east wall. There are no towers in the corners of the courtyard walls. The vault of the entrance iwan of the courtyard has collapsed. The ruins indicate that the crown door was built slightly projecting from the walls.


The location of the mosque could not be determined; however, the ruins in the middle of the courtyard most likely belonged to a two-storeyed mosque.


Covered section:

The covered section includes three naves. The central nave, which continues to the rear wall, is wider and higher than the others. According to the remaining material, it can be determined that the covered section included three naves with two support walls over five square piers each and with six arches separating the naves. There was most certainly a loading platform in the middle nave, 70 cm high beginning from the first pier of the support system after the entrance, continuing to the back wall.



There are three rectangular support towers equally spaced on the north wall of the covered section. There are no traces of support towers on the other sides or at the corners. The crown door of the covered section, opening from the narrow east side, is in ruins, and it is not possible to determine its original form or decoration.



Smooth-faced tufa stone was used in the visible parts of the building, such as the crown door, arches, jambs, arcades and outer walls. The walls were made with rubble infill. Mason marks, common in Seljuk architecture, can be seen on some of the stones of the building.



Eravşar, Osman. Yollarin Taniklari (Witnesses of the Way), 2017, pp. 277-280.

Ünal R. H.  "Doğu Anadolu’da Bilinmeyen Üç Selçuklu Hani". Arkeologi-Sanat Tahrihi Dergisi, II, 1983, p. 106-118.





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