The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

KAYSERI HAN MOSQUE


This han, now serving as a mosque, was built right outside the city walls of Kayseri, a bustling commercial center since the founding of the ancient trading colony of Kültepe by the Hittites in 3000 B.C. The han is the only surviving Seljuk han located in a city, in this, the “Second City” of the Seljuks.

 

Eravşar, 2017. p. 489; photo I. Dıvarcı

Eravşar, 2017. p. 491; photo I. Dıvarcı

Inscription on the tomb of Emir Cemaleddin Bin Tanribirmiş

Plan drawn by Erdmann

DISTRICT
38 KAYSERI

 

LOCATION

The Han Mosque is located at the southern end of the city center of Kayseri, on the busy Talas Street, outside the old city walls. Ibni Bibi referred to this area as the Debbağlar Önü. The han is now surrounded by modern buildings and, like many Seljuk structures in Kayseri, is situated below grade.

 

Kayseri is a city rich in Roman, Byzantine and Seljuk era monuments. A Roman period city wall is located west of the han. The famous Ahi Evren Zaviye (dervish lodge) and a historical graveyard are near the building. Ahi Evran (1169-1261) was a Bektaşi preacher from Khorasan in Persia who came to Anatolia where he established the Ahi Guild, which became a very powerful political-mystical-commercial structure in the 14th century. He worked as a leather dealer in Kayseri and began organizing Muslim craftsmen in Anatolian cities, establishing himself as the “patron saint” of the tanners guild. The location of this lodge, destined to welcome merchants of the fraternal guild of Ahis, may have influenced the location in which the han was built – or the other way around, as both were built at approximately the same time.

 

A two-storied octagonal tomb, dated to Hijri 584 (1188 AD), is situated next to the wall of the han. The tomb is covered by a pyramidal cone dome and includes the tomb of Emir Cemaleddin Bin Tanribirmiş in the lower level. The han could have been built relative to the tomb.

 

NAMES

The original name of this han is not known, and there is no mention of it in Seljuk or Ottoman sources. However, the nearby Kasaplar Bazaar was mentioned in the charter document of the Karatay Han, which indicated that a caravanserai was attached to the bazaar, and this han could very well be the one mentioned in this document.

 

DATE

If this is indeed the han mentioned in the foundation document of the Karatay Han, then a construction date of @1240 can be inferred. Erdmann points out that the plan is similar to caravanserais built in the 1230’s and thus affirms his belief that this han was built in the same period as the Karatay Han (1235-1241).

 

INSCRIPTION

There is no inscription on this han. However, the adjacent tomb does bear an inscription. The inscription, located on the exterior surface of the octagonal conical dome, includes the Qur’anic Ayat’el Kursi (Verse of the Throne 2:225) and some other statements about the person buried in the tomb. The inscription, analyzed by Çayirdağ, reads as follows:

 

This grave belongs to the deceased, the innocent, noble, great commander, and generous Cemaleddin Tanribirmiş bin Davud. May Allah light his resting place. […text of the Ayat Al Kursi]. Trueness is separated from heresy. In the year five hundred eighty four (H.584 /1188 AD).

 

It is not known exactly who this Cemalettin Tanribirmiş bin Davud was, but the firm date on the tomb is interesting. In reference to this date, several dating hypotheses concerning his tomb may be ventured. This inscription is the oldest dated inscription in Kayseri after the inscription of the Hasbeg Kirişçi Tomb, dated 1184. As it is a very early date, it was probably built before the han.

 

PATRON

The patron and construction date of the han are unknown. Erdmann believes that this is the han mentioned in the foundation charter of the Karatay Han, and that it, too, was built by Celaleddin Karatay shortly before he commissioned the Karatay Han.

 

BUILDING TYPE

Covered section with an open courtyard (COC)
Covered section with 5 naves (a central aisle and 2 aisles on each side running perpendicular to the back wall)

 

DESCRIPTION

During the era of the Anatolian Seljuks, caravanserais were generally built out in the countryside on the roads between cities at specific distances. However, it is known that some hans were located in cities or in small settlements along the caravan routes. The Kayseri Han Mosque is one such han, and is the only surviving Seljuk han located within a city. In view of the economic importance of the city of Kayseri, it is not surprising that a han would have built here to serve the commercial needs of the many merchants coming to trade. It is not certain if the han was located inside or outside of the city walls, but the city walls did form a part of the west walls of the han.

 

Courtyard:

The plan of the courtyard area has not been established. Only the west wall of the partially open courtyard section of the han remains today. The presence of an arcade along the south wall of the han, as well as some traces of wall connections in the east and west corners, indicate that in all probability there was originally a courtyard attached to this han.

 

Covered section:

As is commonly seen in Seljuk hans such as the Karatay, Zazadin and Horozlu Hans, the covered section was divided into five naves by two support walls oriented toward the current mihrab, situated across from the original entrance door.

 

Another unique plan feature of this han is the arcade built on the south side. The arcades are covered with barrel vaults resting on four square piers in the middle of the sides above the walls of the courtyard. The middle arcade is wider and higher than the others and is supported by ribbed arches in the east-west direction.

 

The side naves of the covered section are symmetrically oriented to the sides of the middle nave starting from the entrance and running the entire length of the covered section. Each nave was backed by two support walls with six piers, connected to the arches in the east-west direction. All the piers in the covered section are square. Seven additional aisles vertically intersect the five main naves in the east-west direction, oriented as side arms parallel to the rear wall. These aisles are covered with lower pointed barrel vaults.

 

No traces of a loading platform system can be found in the structure. Natural lighting to the mosque is provided by four windows in the south side and two windows in both the east and west sides.

 

The original entrance door, located in the center of the façade, has been covered over and converted into the mihrab (prayer niche) on the inside during the Ottoman era. The double windows on each side of the mihrab were opened at a later date as well. Entry to the covered section of the han, now used as the main prayer space of the mosque, is via two doors in the east and west sides, which were installed at a later date. The depressed arched door in the north and the door near the base of the minaret were also opened at a later date. The buttress to the north is also a later addition.  

 

Exterior:

The west side wall of the han is part of the Roman era city walls which were narrowed during the Byzantine period. Smooth-cut stone was used throughout the building. The wall technique is the infill wall technique. Mason marks can be noted on some of the stones. Only one of the support buttresses, built to strengthen the west wall, remains standing.

 

DIMENSIONS

The han is of substantial size. The interior dimensions of the covered section are 30.45 x 26.15 m.

 

STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE

The walls of the covered section, except for the west side, were restored by the General Directorate of Foundations. Parts of the other walls remain standing and are surrounded by modern houses and office buildings. The han currently serves as a mosque open for worship.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

Cayirdağ, Mehmet. “Kayseri'de Selcuklu ve Beylikler Donemine Ait Bazi Kitabe ve Mezartaslari.” Tarih Dergisi, Prof. Dr. M. C. Sehabettin Tekindag Hatira Sayisi, XXXIV, 1984, pp. 495-532.

Eravşar, Osman. Yollarin Taniklari (Witnesses of the Way), 2017, no. 50, pp. 489-493.

Erdmann, Kurt. Das Anatolische Karavansaray des 13. Jahrhunderts, 1961. Vol. 1, no 50, pp. 164-167.

Ibni Bibi. El Evamirü'l-Ala'iye, Fi'l-Umuri'l-Alai'iye (Selçuk Name), trans. Mürsel Öztürk. Istanbul: 1996, p. II. 73.

Özgüç, Tahsin & Akok, M. Uç Selcuklu Abidesi: Dolay Han, Kesikköprü Kervansarayi ve Han Camii. Türk Tarih Basimevi, 1958, p. 259.

Turan, O. “Celaleddin Karatay, Vakiflari ve Vakfiyeleri. Belleten 1948, 45, vol. 12, pp. 17-170.

 

 

 

 

 

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