The Seljuk Han of Anatolia 


A big han with a big mystery: why was its highly-decorated crown portal removed from the han soon after its completion and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese in town?




photo by Ibrahim Divarci; used by permission

photo by Ibrahim Divarci; used by permission

general overview of the excavation with collapsed covered section

courtyard southern side aisles

Eravşar, 2017. p. 464; photo I. Dıvarcı

plan drawn by Erdmann

Eğirdir city wall wıth incorporated spolia from the han

detail of city wall; in all certainty originally the decorative element of the main portal of the han

Karpuz, Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri (2008) v.1, p. 375

Karpuz, Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri (2008) v.1, p. 375.



37.850619, 30.855685

The Egirdir Han is located at the southern end of the lake of the same name, approximately 3 km outside of Eğirdir in the Yeni neighborhood on the Gelendost-Akşehir road, just beyond the Bone Hospital. The Akpinar Mountains are to the west of han and the modern Konya-Isparta highway passes between the han and the Eğirdir River. Modern buildings are located to the south, and the municipal cemetery surrounds the han on the north and north-west.


The Eğirdir Han is located on the historic Konya-Antalya caravan route. It is the last han on the Konya-Eğirdir route, which then linked down to Antalya and the coast. The old caravan road splits in two after Gelendost, with the north branch leading to Akşehir and the southern one to Konya. The western route splits in two after Eğirdir, continuing south to Antalya and west to Isparta-Denizli.



Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev Han

Pinarbaşi Han

Pinar-pazari Han


Although this caravan route was often described in Seljuk sources, the hans were not mentioned. Foreign travelers, such as Hamilton, Sterrett and Pace, did, however, mention this han. Hamilton thought the ruins belonged to a castle, and Sterrett made mention of an old bridge outside of Eğirdir over the Boğazsuyu River past the han.


An interesting mention comes from a local man from Egirdir, Süleyman Sükrü Karçınzade. In his book entitled Seyhat’ül Kubra, he relates a legendary and grisly story about the han that he had heard from the locals:


“The Lid Tribe practices sacrificial rites to their idols, whom they call “Zaryus-Karyus”, and the biggest temple of their religion was the ruins called the Kervansaray to the south of Eğirdir. The king of the Lid Tribe, Fericiyatü-l Sugra Bilubus bin Tantal, sacrified his son two hundred years before Christ in this temple and offered his son’s flesh to this idol for his dinner and then served the rest of the body to his noble guests and did other such savage sacrifices as this.”



Both sections of the han are in ruins and both portals have been lost, but it has long been believed that the decorative stones from the portal were incorporated into the city walls of Eğirdir, next to the Dündar Bey Medrese. This supposition was definitely confirmed following the excavations, as the similarity of the scale, material and building techniques of the door is undeniable. In addition, the wording of the inscription plaque is more fitting of a han than of a medrese. Thus, it is now possible to confirm that the han was built in 1238.



Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II


The patron of the Eğirdir Han, as indicated in the inscription, was the Seljuk Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II. He commissioned the building in 1238, soon after his conquest of Diyarbakir. In 1301, the crown door of the han was removed and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese, some 60 years after the construction of the han.


The naskh inscription over the crown door of the han, which was removed and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese in the center of the town of Eğirdir 60 years after the construction of the han, reads as follows:


“This sacred han was ordered to be built by the great sultan, the supreme shah, the owner of the reins of the umma, the lord of the sultans of sultans of the Arabs and Persians, the sultan of two lands and of two seas, the Zulkarnain of his day, the sovereign of all times, the second Alexander, the sultan of the sultans of the world, supported from the heavens, victorious against his enemies, helper of the protector of the believers, oppressor of the infidels and blasphemers, punisher of the profane and the rebellious, eradicator of the deviants who have abandoned the way of the sunnah way and the trespassers, the founder of justice, the protector of the people, the helper of the caliphate of Allah, the sultan of the Greeks, Armenians, Arabs and Franks, the crown of the Seljuk dynasty, the helper of the world and the Faith, the father of conquest, Keyhüsrev son of Keykubad, son of the felicitous sultan Kilicaslan, son of Mesud, son of Kiliçaslan, the companion of the caliphate… May Allah bless his power in the south and west of the earth. In the year of 635…”


The florid and boastful type of wording on the inscription is similar to the language of the other inscriptions of this sultan.



Covered with courtyard (COC)
Covered section smaller than the courtyard
Covered section with a middle aisle and 2 rows of aisles on each side
7 bays of vaults in covered section

1 arcade of open vaults on the southern side of the courtyard


The han faces west towards Lake Eğirdir and is built on sloping terrain. The han remained buried for a long time. Following the excavations directed in 1993 by Rüçhan Arik and in 2006 by Rüstem Bozer, it was possible to determine the plan of the han. The han shares similar features with the combined plan of 13th century Seljuk Sultan hans, which include a covered section for lodging and an open courtyard with service sections.



The courtyard of the han, located in the east-west direction, is wider than the covered section. It consists of a large courtyard with a single row of 7 open cells to the southern side. 


An iwan is located immediately after the entry to the courtyard. On each side of the iwan is a square room which is entered directly from the iwan. One of these rooms located in the entrance iwan could have been used as a prayer space.


Service areas and special accommodation rooms were situated in the south wing of the courtyard. The first five rooms from the entrance are approximately the same depth and are square or rectangular in form. The function of two spaces in the southeast corner of the courtyard, which were interconnected on their inside, has yet to be determined. The opening gap outside the room closest to the corner was probably the location of the furnace of a bath. The sequence of the rooms in the courtyard is similar to what is seen in the Karatay, Aksaray, Kayseri Sultan, Alay and Incir Hans. The room in the southeast corner of the building recalls the baths of the Tuzhisar Sultan, Karatay and Alay Hans.


Covered section: The covered section is smaller than the courtyard. According to the remaining traces and the results of the excavations, it can be determined that the covered section contained a central nave and seven side vaults running in the north-south direction parallel to the western wall. The vaults were reinforced by two square piers each and are covered by pointed vaults lower than the one covering the central nave. The support lines in the east-west direction, which carried the vault of the central nave, were connected to each other by pointed arches in the same direction.


A system of loading platforms, revealed during the excavations, begins at the arch piers on both sides of the central nave and continues as far as the wall behind.


The covered section was reinforced by six support towers placed in the middle of the walls and at the corners.


The crown door of the han was removed and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese 60 years after the construction of the han. To this day, it is not known why the crown door of the han was removed and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese. Several hypotheses have been put forth. Some researchers believe there was an earthquake which destroyed the han, and others believe that the han was left unfinished and its stones purloined at a later date. Neither theory is satisfactory to explain this mystery. Why was such a large han abandoned so shortly after its construction? Did the political upheaval of the era following the Seljuk defeat to the Mongols at the Battle of Kösedağ in 1243 impact this han? In 1280 Felekeddin Dundar Bey, the leader of the Turkish Principality of the Hamidoğlu made Eğirdir the capital of a small principality. Were the stones commandeered by Dundar Bey of the Hamidoğlu Principality when he built this medrese in 1301 to show that he was the new power in the region? It is to be noted that the famed world traveler Ibn Battuta stayed in this medrese a few years later, in 1330.


The highly-decorated crown door of the han now installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese in town has a pointed arch. The arch is surrounded by five borders; one of them plain and the others decorated with different geometric elements: hexagonal polygons, diagonal stripes, and an ornamental strip of 24-sided polygons in the center. The final plain border surrounds the inscription plaque of naskh calligraphy. The arch rests on small cylindrical columns placed in the corners, and whose surfaces are covered with interlaced geometric elements. The columns end with capitals with volutes and three rows of acanthus leaves. Two circular medallions of different sizes placed in each of the spandrels of the arch. The larger medallions were decorated with polygons with twenty-four sides, while the smaller ones had polygons of twenty sides. The outer border of the crown door contains five rows of muqarnas. The muqarnas sit over pendentives at the lower section. The recessed arch door opening, composed of corner stones of two colors, was surrounded by a border of geometric decorative elements. A half-hexagonal shaped niche is located in the lateral faces of the crown door, which resembles the composition of the crown door of the Incir Han and the Aksaray Sultan Han. These niches were surrounded by a border composed of half six-armed stars. The columns in the corners of the niches have capitals with acanthus leaves.



The north and south walls of the courtyard are reinforced with square towers in each corner and two towers equally-spaced on each side.



Smooth-faced stones were used in most sections of the building, with larger stones used in the lower courses. No mason marks were noted on any of the remaining stones. The reuse spolia materials seen in the Dundar Bey Medrese and the Hizir Bey Mosque in town are said to have been brought from this han, but this remains to be proven.


The stones of the han have been pillaged for many years for other building projects. Some 25 stone fragments from the han are believed to have been used in the city walls next to the Dündar Bey Medrese. If the spolia from this han now incorporated into the city walls is any indication, the portal of the han must have included many decorative elements such as trelliswork, blossoms, arabesques, polygons and braids. A piece of stonework found during the 1993 excavations with geometric designs was found to fit exactly in place in the border of the broken left frame of the mihrab in the Dündar Bey Medrese portal.


Total area: 1,640 m2
Area of covered section: 1,290m2
Area of courtyard: 1,640m2
This is a very large han, with a size comparable with the Sultan Hans of Kayseri and Aksaray. When built, it would have been the third largest han in Anatolia.


The ruins of the han remained buried for centuries. The stones of the walls at the foundation level were removed and only the mortar remains. The roof elements have completely collapsed. Excavations were led here by Rüçan Arık in 1993. A major archeological survey and excavation, led by the Isparta Museum, began in 2006. The building is still in a ruined state and has remained deserted since the excavations, with no plans in order.


The famous medieval Arab traveler Ibn Battuta visited Anatolia. Although his itinerary in Turkey is often confusing and hard to follow, once thing is certain. He received the hospitality of the Ahi fraternal organizations, of which he speaks highly. He stayed their hospices in more than 25 towns in Anatolia, which shows how developed this trade guild association was at the time. He first came to Turkey at Antalya, and then went inland to Eğirdir, capital of the Hamidid beylik. He spent Ramadan (June 1331 or May 1333) in the city. He most certainly traveled up the main caravan road north, and may have stayed in the hans of Kirkgoz, Evdir, Incir and Susuz along the way, and most definitely passed by the Eğirdir Han on his way into town. Once arrived in Eğirdir, he stayed in the Dundar Bey Medrese, which contains the original portal of the Eğirdir Han. Here is his description in his travel journal:


From Antaliya (Antalya) we traveled to the city of Akridur (Eğirdir), a great and populous city with fine bazaars and running streams, fruit trees and orchards. It has a lake of sweet water on which a vessel plies in two days to Aqsahr (Akşehir) and Baqshahr (Beyşehir) and other towns and villages. We lodged there in a college opposite the main congregational mosque, and occupied by the learned Professor Muslih al-Din. He had studied in Egypt and Syria, and lived for a time in al-Iraq; he was elegant in speech and eloquent in expression, a prodigy among the rare spirits of the age, and he received us with the utmost generosity and lavishly supplied our needs. Its sultan is Abu Ishaq Baq, son of al-Dundar Bak, one of the great sultans of that land.



The han offers a commanding view over the lake at the Kuyucak Mountains to the southeast of the lake. A visit to this han can be combined with a visit to the nearby Gelendost Han. A few days spent relaxing in the tranquil town of Eğirdir on this beautiful lake, reminiscent of Lago Como in Italy, is quite restorative to the soul.



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Eravşar, 2017. p. 467; photo I. Dıvarcı

overview of city wall next to the Dündar Bey Medrese, with reuse spolia from the han

sign for research project


general overview of the excavation and collapsed covered section to rear

View of Lake Eğirdir from the han


view onto the Kuyucak Mountains southeast of Lake Eğirdir


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