The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

Hans with mosques


 

Many hans included mosques or prayer areas as one of the service spaces. The location, plan and decoration of the mosque differed in each han, depending on the scale of the han, the orientation towards Mecca and the preferences of the patron or architect. Not all hans had mosques. There are approximately 20 hans with mosques, mostly in the form of a small room (mescit). They are generally located in the larger hans; the smaller hans may have needed to reserve the limited space for more urgent needs such as storage or lodging. When they are provided, the room can be identified by the presence of a mihrab in the qibla wall. Mosques were perhaps not considered as obligatory in many hans, since all that is needed for a Muslim to pray is a clean space and a prayer mat. In some mosques, Muslims could go up to the flat roof, spread out a prayer mat and pray. Reciting the Fatiha in the sky looking out across the Central Anatolian plain would have been an unforgettable experience. It must also be recalled that not all of the merchants were Muslims.

Mosques were located generally in one of four places: 

-     Next to the entrance

-     In one of the rooms on either side of the entrance

-     On a second story (Sari, Kurucesme, Alara and Pazar Hans) above the entrance portal: when the mosque is located above the portal, it is reached by an staircase independent of the one leading to the roof. In hans with entrances having two storeys, the single room over the crown door generally served as the mosque, as is seen in the Zazadin and Avanos Hans. The northernmost room of the three spaces above the entrance of the Kizilören han was used as a mosque. The other two sections were interconnected, and access to the mosque and these rooms was accessed by two separate stairways from the courtyard. When the mosque is located above the entrance portal, it is reached by an staircase separate from the one leading to the roof. 

 -     In the middle of the courtyard as a free-standing structure (known as a “Kiosk” mosque) kiosk mosques built in the middle of the courtyard had to have been built during the first phase of construction at the same time as the covered section. This is currently the accepted hypothesis; however, the situation will become clearer once more research is undertaken concerning the construction date of these hans. The pavilion mosque located in the middle of the courtyard of the Kayseri Sultan Han is an important example in support of this opinion, as the decoration of the crown doors of the mosque and the covered section are comprised of the same motifs. The kiosk mosques of the Ağzikara and Kayseri Sultan Hans are particularly noteworthy.

 

In addition, in some instances, such as the Şarapsa Han, the mosque was established as a separate space to the exterior or the han.

Many of the mosques have ornate staircases, entrances, mihrabs and decorated muqarnas and vaults. The mosques are the most elaborately-decorated elements of hans, along with the crown doors. Rich decoration exists in the ceilings and crown doors of the mosques and also on mihrabs (prayer niches indicating the direction of Mecca). The kiosk mosques of the large hans are particularly impressive. The geometric motifs, which follow the same characteristics as the overall design scheme of the portals of the han, are seen mostly in the decoration of mihrabs. The mosques are generally covered by a vault or a dome, often decorated with muqarnas, as seen in the Burma Han.

 

Hans that have identifiable rooms serving as mosques are:

Hans with freestanding kiosk mosques:

Sultan Aksaray, 1229

 

Ağzıkara Han, 1231-37

 

Sultan Kayseri, 1232-1236

Sahip Ata Han, 1249-50

 

 

©2001-2018, Katharine Branning; All Rights Reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced in any form without written consent from the author.