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, and 30% of the hans currently standing include a mosque space. 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 service 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 under the starry sky looking out across the Central Anatolian plain would have been an unforgettable experience. It must also be recalled that not all 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 (Kargi)

-     On a second story (Sari, Kizilören, Alara, Zazadin 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 by two separate stairways from the courtyard.

 -     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. The kiosk mosques of the Ağzikara and Kayseri Sultan Hans are particularly noteworthy. The current accepted hypothesis is that these kiosk mosques were built during the first phase of construction at the same time as the covered section. 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 comprise the same motifs. However, more research must be undertaken to determine this.

In some instances, such as at the Şarapsa Han, the mosque was established as a separate space to the exterior or the han. These mosques had an entry from the exterior, which indicated that it was used by local villagers as well.

Seljuk mosques in general were designed with care and attention to decorative detail. Han mosque spaces were similarly planned, and were built with quality materials and craftsmanship. 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 of the more important hans built by sultans and emirs are generally covered by a vault or a dome, often decorated with muqarnas, as seen in the Burma and Sahipata Hans.


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



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