The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

AGZIKARA HAN


View of kiosk mosque in courtyard

and portal to covered section

Portal to covered section

axonometric drawing of the Ağzikara han, showing the unusual orientation of the covered section to the left of the entrance portal

 

DISTRICT
68 AKSARAY


LOCATION
This han is located 13 km to the northeast of Aksaray on the Nevşehir road (Rte. 300), in the village of Ağzikara.

[map]


OTHER NAMES

Hoca Mesud or Kiosk Cami Han


DATE
1231 for the covered section
1240 for the courtyard
Dated by two inscriptions

 

REIGN OF

Construction of the covered section began under the reign of Alaeddin Keykubad I. The courtyard was completed during the reign of his son, Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II (r. 1237-1246).


PATRON
The first of its two inscriptions indicates that the construction began in June, 1231 as a charitable foundation by a wealthy merchant named Hoca Mesud bin Abdullah and that it was completed in February 1240. The hall was built during the reign of Alaeddin Keykubad I and the courtyard by his son Gıyaseddin Keyhüsrev II.
 

BUILDING TYPE

Covered open courtyard (COC)
Covered section smaller than courtyard
Covered section with a central aisle and 2 aisle on each side running perpendicular to the back wall

6 bays of vaults parallel to the back wall

DESCRIPTION
This han faces approximately west, and lies parallel to road.

 

This is one of the most spectacular hans in Turkey. With its great portals, free-standing kiosk mosque, exterior towers, classical plan and other distinctive architectural features, this han is reminiscent of the Sultan Hans of Aksaray and Kayseri.  However, it differs from the traditional classical covered section with courtyard plan in that it presents an unusual orientation. Like the Durağan, Zazadin and Kesikköprü hans, this covered section of the han has an excentric (side) entrance. The two portal doors are not in the same axis, as is generally the case for the open courtyard and covered plan hans. The covered hall is to the left of the main portal, not directly opposite it. This han has a fine kiosk mescit in the center of the courtyard.

 

Exterior:

There are six outer corner towers and seven towers on the sides for a total of 13, which give the han the appearance of a fortified castle. This han was badly damaged during the fighting between the Karaman forces and a Turkish lord named Memreş, and two of the towers were destroyed. They were rebuilt at the beginning of the 14th century by Kerimeddin Gazan Han.

The walls of the han are built of rubble bound with mortar, dressed with finely-cut and dressed stones. The corner towers and outer walls are supported by buttresses. There are slit windows on the upper level of the facade.
This han received its name, the "Han of the Dark Mouth" probably because its main portal and vestibule are so deep that they never admit sunlight. Indeed, it seems as if you are walking through a tunnel to reach the courtyard.
 

Courtyard and mosque:

The courtyard is entered through the portal on the north side. Two fountains have been installed back to back on the west wall.

The free-standing kiosk mosque, a particularly fine example of the type, is raised up on four arches and is positioned in the middle of the courtyard. It is sparsely decorated on the outside. There is a double staircase of 6 steps on the eastern side which leads up to the muezzin's pedestal, and an additional 10 steps lead up to the prayer room. The prayer room is decorated with stalactites and rosettes on the ceiling dome. The mosque is square in plan and measures 4 x 4m. It is believed that there was originally a fountain below.

The courtyard is surrounded by colonnades and closed rooms which served as service rooms, lodging spaces, and stables. The west part of the entrance and the west side have double porticos, while the southern side has an enfilade of single covered rooms.

A set of stairs, located in the southeast corner of the courtyard, leads up to the roof and to a watchtower room. Roofs of hans were used for defense, offering advantageous views of the surroundings.

 

Bath:
The han had a small bath complex constructed near, but not abutting, the han itself. The ruins of the baths can be seen to the right of the han.

 

Covered section:

This han has an unusual orientation of the covered section in relationship to the entry. It is situated to the side and not in the axis of the entrance, which is the classic orientation. The covered section is rectangular in plan, with a central aisle and 6 vaulted aisles running perpendicularly to the rear wall on both sides of the central aisle. There is a lantern dome over the central aisle which is supported on squinches filled with muquarnas, like the dome in the kiosk mescit.

 

Inscriptions:

There are two inscriptions of two lines over the courtyard and hall doors.

 

The historian Aqsarayi mentions that the Mongols and the Turkmen forces met in a battle on the road near this han.

DECORATION

The high, pointed arch of the main portal (called a "crown door" in Turkish) is decorated with geometric motifs in high relief (muqarnas), cut with an outstanding degree of workmanship. The carved decoration is purely geometrical, and, as such, is notable for the absence of the animal, floral and human decorative motifs typical of the period.
Between the muqarnas and the framing arches is a band of swastikas. Other decorative elements include braids, trelliswork, brickwork in the arches, lambrequins, and rope designs.
The decoration of the mosque interior is more elaborate than is found in general.

The distinctive warm honey color of the stone is in itself a decorative element.

 

DIMENSIONS
This is one of the largest hans built:
Total external area (towers and portal excluded) is 2,680m2.
Covered section area: 780m2
Courtyard area: 1,480m2


STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
This is one of the most impressive of the remaining hans. Well-preserved and maintained, it is one of the only hans to have survived completely intact to this day. It is run as an open-air museum by the Turkish government. There are some houses nearby that are thought to date from the same period of construction. A small bridge built at the same time as the han is located about 100 from the han. It is now in ruins and abandoned.


BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

Acun, p.320-345 (includes extensive bibliography in Turkish); 451; 474.

"Agzikara Han" database entry in the Museum without Frontiers (internal web document)

http://www.discoverislamicart.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;tr;Mon01;6;en

Aqsarayi, p. 206.

Altun, p. 200.
Bayrak, p. 571.
Bektaş, pp. 98-105.
Erdmann, no. 27, pp. 97-102.
Ertuğ, pp. 78-79.
Gülyaz, Murat Ertuğrul "The Caravansaraıs of Cappadocia", Skylife Magazine, December, 1999.
Hillenbrand, fig. 6.42, p. 552; 6.43, p. 348.
Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şiek (2008), vol. 1, pp. 64-67.

Rice, p. 206.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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