ablution fountain For washing before prayer five times a day according to Islamic rites.


An application of repeating geometric forms that often echo the forms of plants and animals. They are often seen on the stone carvings of han portals.


A covered passageway, which can have cells along the sides; or a series of arches supported by columns or piers. Arcades are frequently seen in hans on the two lateral sides of courtyards.

ashlar Ashlar is dressed stone work of any type of stone. Ashlar blocks are large rectangular blocks of masonry sculpted to have square and straight edges and even faces. The blocks are generally 13 to 15 inches in height. When smaller than 11 inches, they are usually called "small ashlar".


A bay is an alcove or a small recessed room or compartment opening off of a larger room. It is also a part of a building marked off by vertical elements, such as columns or pilasters: an arcade divided into ten bays.

beylik Turkish principality in Anatolia emerging at the end of the thirteenth century or the fourteenth century.


One of the three main rooms of a Roman bath (in order of bathing sequence: frigidarium, tepidarium, caldarium). This is the hottest room of the bathing sequence, and is usually heated by an under floor heating system.

cornice A cornice is a horizontal decorative molding which crowns a building, over a door, window or roof edge. Its function is to divert rainwater from the side walls of the building.

Horizontal layers of stones.


A fortified parapet with alternating solid parts and openings, termed respectively merlons and cresting. Generally used for defense, they are commonly employed as a decorative motif in hans.

cruciform plan

The plan consisting of four vaulted iwans that face each other across a central courtyard.


The Arabic word for prince. In Seljuk times, this title was conferred to a high-ranking military commander in service to the Sultan. Many of these emirs were responsible for building religious and civic monuments.

ghulam young man of servile or slave status, who were usually war captives who, trained as palace attendants or guards, manned the sultan's personal entourage and rose through the military or administrative ranks, often becoming powerful emirs.

haha wall

The ha-ha wall is a device to allow a view from the house over the neighboring countryside, without a wall or hedge in the way. It usually takes the form of a sunken ditch (1.8 m) that serves as boundary wall. It was used to keep animals such as sheep and cattle out of the formal garden without sacrificing the view of the countryside. The courtyard wall in the Zazadin Han uses this construct.


The Arabic word for bath or public bathing spaces.

imaret A hospice or public kitchen providing food for the needy.


A vaulted hall closed on three sides and open at one end, overlooking a courtyard.


Külliye, deriving from the Arabic word "kűl" (meaning the whole, all), is a term which designates a complex of buildings, and managed by a single institution, often based on a vakıf (foundation charter). It can comprise a mosque, a medrese, a darüşşifa (a building constructed for medical purposes, equivalent of a hospital or a medical center of our day), kitchens, bakery, hamam, other buildings for various benevolent services for the community. The tradition of building these social services complexes is a high note of the humanism of the Seljuk era, and continued into the Ottoman era.


A decorative technique in ceramics in which compounds of silver and copper are applied over the glaze of a previously fired object, which is then refired, resulting in a glittery, metallic surface.

mason's mark

A carved figure or symbol often found on dressed stones in buildings, much like a brand on cattle. They served several purposes: to indicate the quarry of origin, or to identify the mason who had prepared the stones to their paymaster. Prepared stones were paid for by the quantity, not by time worked. Mason marks could also be used to ensure the correct installation of important pieces of stonework. Mason’s marks are seen on the stones of numerous hans, and in many instances confer a decorative element, albeit unintentional.


A religious school endowed for teaching the four sects of Islamic law: Shafi'ie, Maliki, Hanafi and Hanbali


A small mosque; many single-dome small mosques can be seen in the neighborhoods of Konya. They were destined for daily prayer


An arched niche in the qibla wall indicating the direction of Mecca and prayer.


The mosque tower from which the call to prayer is given five times daily.


The pulpit from which the sermon at the Friday noon prayer is given.


A 3-dimensional stalactite or honeycomb-like units that are used as a decorative device in Islamic architecture, usually in doorways and niches. This ornamental arrangement of stacked multi-tiered niches found in domes, squinches and doors. It is a decorative vaulting system based on the replication of units arranged in tiers and applied on different parts of a building including domes, minarets, columns and portals. The crown doors of Seljuk hans are generally composed of a muqarnas composition.

nakshi A form of Arabic script. It consists cursive lines and angles. The inscription plaques on hans are written in the nakshi style of calligraphy.


The nave is the central aisle of a church, extending from the narthex to the chancel and flanked by aisles. The term is figuratively used to describe a central aisle of a covered section when it is of monumental size, such as at the Zazadin Han.


An opening at the top of a dome; can also be referred to as a skyhole.

ogival arch

A pointed arch. Also called an ogee arch.


A decorative motif based on the fan-shaped leaves of a palm tree. It was largely employed in the Greek, Roman and Byzantine eras, and was also largely used in the stone carved decoration of the portals of Seljuk hans. 


A pendentive is a constructive device permitting the placing of a circular dome over a square room or an elliptical dome over a rectangular room. Pendentives, which are triangular segments of a sphere, taper to points at the bottom and spread at the top to establish the continuous circular or elliptical base needed for the dome. In masonry, the pendentives thus receive the weight of the dome, concentrating it at the four corners where it can be received by the piers beneath. Prior to the development of the pendentive, the device of corbelling or the use of the squinch in the corners of a room had been employed. The first attempts to used pendentives were made by the Romans, and full achievement of the form was reached in Hagia Sophia at Constantinople (6th century).

perpend stone

A stone that extends through the width of the entire wall.


A pier is an upright support for a building, arch or bridge. The cross section of the pier is generally square, rectangular, or circular, although other shapes are also possible (cruciform, or cross-shaped, piers were frequent in Gothic cathedrals). Piers in Seljuk hans are generally square or rectangular. In buildings that are designed as a sequence of bays, each window or door opening between piers is considered a single bay.


The direction of prayer oriented towards Mecca.

qibla wall

The wall facing the direction to Mecca indicated by the mihrab


A ribat (from the Arabic word fo a hospice) is a term for a small military fortification as built along a frontier during the first years of the Islamic eras, notably in Iran and in north Africa. These military fortifications later served to protect commercial routes, became centers for isolated Muslim communities, and over time, ribats also became hostels for voyagers (hans) on major trade routes and refuges for mystics.  


The portico or cloisters of arcades surrounding the courtyard of a han or mosque.

rough-face stone

Stone blocks finished generally with a toothed tool.

smooth-faced stone

Stone finished with flat bladed chisels.


The area between the extrados of two adjoining arches.



Spolia (Latin, 'spoils') is a modern term used to in art history to describe the re-use of earlier building material or decorative sculpture on new monuments. The reuse of stones is a fairly common building practice and can be seen at most all periods of art history: late antiquity, during the Byzantine era, in the medieval West, and in the medieval Islamic world. It is very frequent during the Seljuk era, notably in Konya (columns in the Alaeddin Mosque in Konya and in many hans of the Konya region). It was used to facilitate construction and to reduce construction costs. Spolia was used for both structural (Obruk and Kizilören) and for decorative purposes (Zazadin, Kadin). The use of spolia (spoliation) has two interpretations: the ideological (re-use of elements from buildings of former empires now conquered, in the sense of the spoils of war; or in the sense to revive past glories) and pragmatic: if a good marble column or stone is available, why produce a new one?  The use of spolia in the Seljuk era is a complex one. Churches were allowed to continue operating under the Seljuk reign, so one must assume that the use of spolia in this era was pragmatic.


The first voissoir resting on the impost of an arch.


A squinch in architecture is a piece of construction used for filling in the upper angles of a square room so as to form a proper base to receive a spherical dome. It was the primitive solution of this problem, the perfected one being eventually provided by the pendentive. Squinches may be formed by masonry built out from the angle in corbelled courses, or by building an arch or a number of corbelled arches diagonally in the corner. In Islamic Persia, where it may have been invented, the squinch took the form of a succession of corbelled stalactite-like structures known as muqarnas. This is also frequently seen in Seljuk hans.

Sultan Han

A group of larger hans commissioned directly by the Sultan and not a private individual or patron.



The ‘tandır' is a kind of oven buried underground. It resembles a big hole full of embers (probably fueled by dried camel dung). This pit oven is used to bake the traditional flatbread. It is the only way to cook dough in several minutes. It can also be used to cook the "tandir kebab" (Lamb pieces or sometimes a whole lamb roasted with onions for several hours). Tandirs have been found in several hans, notably at Kuruçeşme. For a video demonstrating bread-baking in a tandir, click here.


A building designed specifically for gatherings of a Sufi brotherhood. Most surviving Seljuk tekkes date from the late Seljuk-Mongol period.


The tepidarium is one of the three major rooms of the Roman bath (caldarium, frigidarium and the tepidarium). After changing street clothes and working up a sweat in the entry room (palaestra), this was the stop on the way to the hot caldarium and then the cool-watered frigidarium. The tepidarium is the warm room, usually heated by a heating system set under the floor. It was usually the most highly-decorated room in the bath, and lit by clerestory windows.

vakif (waqf) A land or property charitably endowed in perpetuity for the benefit of a pious institution, and yielding an income. Most hans were run by vakif foundation deeds (waqfiya).


Voussoirs are the wedge-shaped stone blocks forming the curved part of an arch. Although each unit of stone in an arch or vault is known as a voussoir, there are two specific voussoir components of an arch: the keystone and the springer. The keystone is the center stone or masonry unit at the apex of an arch, often decorated, embellished or exaggerated in size. The springer is the lowermost voussoir, located where the curve of the arch springs from the vertical support or abuttment of the wall or pier. Voussoir arches distribute weight efficiently. Each wedge-shaped voussoir turns aside the thrust of the mass above, transferring it from stone to stone to the final edge, which is horizontal and passes the thrust to the supports. Voussoir arches distribute weight efficiently and take maximum advantage of the strength of stone. The outer boundaries of a voussoir are the extrados.



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