The Seljuk Han of Anatolia
A rare example of a Seljuk han with a concentric plan, built in tandem with an impressive single-arch bridge to the south.
Karpuz, Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri (2008) v.2 p. 366
Eravşar, 2017. p. 518; photo I. Dıvarcı
Eravşar, 2017. p. 545; photo I. Dıvarcı
Eravşar, 2017. p. 516; photo I. Dıvarcı
The bridge 1km from the han
the smaller flood arch of the bridge
The Mirçinge Han is located in a valley 25 km south of Divriği, between Divriği and Arapgir, in the small village of Handere. The han has sunken and is hidden from view by the houses of the village.
The han is located at a narrow point which controls access to the valley. The Mirçinge River flows through the valley. It is the first han past Divriği, which was the seat of a branch of the Megucukids. The road coming from Kemah joins the Mirçinge Han road after the Burma Han and continues towards the south. The han is located on a secondary road connecting Divriği to Malatya.
As impressive as the han is the Seljuk bridge which is located 1km south of the han. The Seljuk sultans not only built hans to accommodate merchants, but they also undertook an extensive program to overhaul existing trade routes, as well as to repair bridges and build new ones when needed. The Mirçinge Bridge is one such effort to develop this, one of the most important Anatolian caravan routes, which passed from Sivas, Divriği, Eğin, Arapgir, Malatya and Diyarbakir. This bridge is so striking that Kiepert marked it on his map, but completely overlooked the nearby han. This notable 13th century Seljuk bridge over the Mirçinge Creek is located 1km south of the han between Handere and Ortaköy. The roadway rises fairly steeply from both sides. It was built at a narrow point of the valley, over two opposing rocks. It is believed that this is the only remaining bridge from the Mengucukid period. The Burmahan and Rabat bridges were constructed on the Çalti River in the same period and the bridges within the city have all collapsed over the years and were later rebuilt, so they no longer display their original characteristics. The bridge consists of a single, large pointed arch designed to accommodate human and animal foot traffic. Although the Mirçinge Bridge is classed as a single arch bridge, there is a second smaller discharge flood arch on its east side, made to increase the resistance of the main arch by narrowing its opening and to reduce the slope of the road over the bridge. The voussoirs of this flood arch are not as finely executed as those of the main arch. The original floor and some parts of the spandrel wall remain. The wide, pointed voussoires of the main arch are of cut stone. This bridge displays the common characteristics of Seljuk period bridges and was probably built at the same time as the han. There is no inscription on the bridge. On the arch of the bridge, there are symbols of a compass and the set square. These symbols are believed to be the special mason marks of the craftsmen who constructed the bridge. The bridge has been repaired several times. The first notation about a repair can be found in the Şheriye registry, which states that it was repaired by the Akkoyunlu (White Sheep) community in 1621-1622. This bridge was still in use in the World War I and probably through the Second. Traces of the historic caravan route can be seen around the bridge.
The village in which the han is located is known as Handere, not Mirçinge, but the stream passing through it and crossed by the bridge 1 km to the south is called the Mirçinge Creek. Thus it would appear that the han took its name from the river. The original name of the han is however not known. No historical texts and travelers to the region have mentioned it. This name was probably the original name, as the name of the han is recorded as Karyet Han Mirçinge in the Divrigi Ulu Mosque Foundation charter which was prepared in 1243 after the construction of the mosque.
mid 13th century
There may be no inscription plaque, but the han does have another dating source. The han is not dated, but it is mentioned in the foundation deed of the Divriği Ulu Mosque (1228-29) which was prepared in 1243 by Ahmed Şah of the Mengücukid Dynasty, which thus provides a terminus ante quem. It was probably constructed around or before 1230. This is evidence that it was in existence at the beginning of the 13th century. The han is generally dated to this time, and it is estimated that it must have been built several years prior to the writing of the foundation deed.
There is no inscription on or around the building
The patron of the han is not known, but in view of the proximity of the estimated construction date of the han with that of the Great Mosque of Divrigi, it is possible that the patron could have been Ahmet Shah of the Mengücukid Dynasty.
Concentric plan (CON)
Anatolian Seljuk hans include a group with a concentric plan. There are six at the present stage of research, and it appears that this han is the latest one. It is also the simplest and the smallest of the concentrically-planned hans. These hans have a physical separation between the animals and the travelers, with low walls, partition walls, rooms, iwans), which show that there was a very concerted desire to provide more privacy and comfort for travelers in comparison with the other hans of the Anatolian Seljuk era.
This is not a large han, and is a bit of a backcountry han off the accessible main routes, with no decoration or mosque. Entry to the han is through a crown door placed in the middle of the north side. The crown door is plain, with no border decorations or frames.
The han is a small rectangular building without a courtyard. The han only has a covered section, which is planned in two concentric rings. As such, it has a very unique plan in that it consists only of covered spaces arranged in a concentric ring around a rectangular, covered space. The platform for the passengers and goods is located in the inner ring and the stables are in the outer ring. The researcher Yavuz has added an additional typology to the traditional classification of Seljuk period caravanserais established by Erdmann and others. Yavuz calls this layout the concentric plan. Few of this type of plan exist, and these rare examples include the han here and the Alara and Sevserek Hans. The Mirçinge Han, simpler that these other two, is considered one of the earliest examples of concentric hans. Yavuz states that the concentric plan is associated with Sassanid period buildings of the 2nd century and that there are strong similarities with the Gambush Han in Iran. However, it is not known why more of this type of han were not built, nor what predicated the choice to build with this plan. Yavuz believes that these hans were designed in relation to the climatic conditions of the region, in order to make them more comfortable, yet the Alara Han is built in a very hot climate and the Mircinge in a very cold one. No exact information is available as to whether the courtyard of the interior section of the Alara Han was covered or not (in view of the climate, it probably was not). However, the central space of the Mircinge Han was definitely covered by a huge pointed vault. The plan thus seems to be adapted more to an animal pen or a warehouse than as an inn for travelers.
There are four piers on each of the long sides of the court, two piers each on the short sides and one pier in each of the corners. Two arcades are connected to these piers: one is covered with a barrel vault and the other with a pointed arch. The vault section has collapsed today, but traces reveal that it was once covered with a high, pointed barrel vault supported by arches. The rooms around the wide, gallery-like hall are covered with pointed barrel vaults parallel to the outer walls. The arch of the gallery-like hall, in the same direction as the entrance, is not pointed but is a semi-circular arch. There is no trace of a loading platform inside the han.
Lighting is provided by square holes in the crown of the vaults. There are five lighting holes along the long side and three in the south. The central nave has collapsed but it was supposedly lit by windows placed above the vault. There are no traces of windows in the outer walls.
The han is made with pitch-faced stones filled with rubble, and smooth-faced stone was used in the arches and piers. The interior faces of the vaults are plastered, traces of which remain. There are no downspouts in the building.
Exterior dimensions: 18.52 x 15.16m
CURRENT STATE OF CONSERVATION
The han is in a ruined state but the walls are solid. It could be restored to its original state.
Acun, H. Anadolu Selçuklu Dönemi Kervansarayları. Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı Publications, 2007, p. 515.
Eravşar, Osman. Yollarin Taniklari (Witnesses of the Way), 2017, pp. 515-518.
Karpuz, Haşim. and Kuş, A. and Dıvarcı, I. and Şimşek, F. Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri, 2008, vol. 2, p. 366.
Kiepert, R. Karte von Kleinasien, in 24 Blatt bearbeitet, 1902-1916.
Sinclair, T. A. Eastern Turkey: An Architectural and Archeological Survey, London, 1989, vol. 2, pp. 407.
Turan, O. Selçuklu Kervansaraylari, Belleten vol X: 9, 1946, pp. 471.
Yavuz, A.T. "Concepts that shape Anatolian Seljuq Caravanserais", Gülru Necipoğlu (ed). Muqarnas XIV: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1997, pp. 80-95.
Yavuz, A.T. "Mirçinge Han and Concentric-planned Anatolian Seljuk Period Caravansarais" in 9th International Congress of Turkish Art, 1991. Vol 3. Ankara, 1995.
Yavuz, A. T. Mirçinge Han ve Anadolu Selçuklu Dönemi Eşodakli Kervansaraylari Arasindaki Yeri. ODTU MFD, 1991, pp. 41-55.
Yavuz, A. T. Anadoluda Eşodakli Selçuklu Hanlari, ODTU Mimarlik Fakültesi Dergisi (2:2), pp. 187-206.
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