The Seljuk Han of Anatolia   

ALARA HAN


DISTRICT
07 ANTALYA

 

 

 

 

 

overview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

architrave and inscription plaque

inner door leading to central corridor

steps to roof in hammam room

skyhole/sundial in hammam room

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

first outer ring, northern side

first outer ring, southern side

second outer ring, southern side, showing low wall used as sleeping banquette

"crying" lion lampholder

Mason marks

 

LOCATION
This han is located the Alanya-Antalya road, approximately 30 miles southeast of Manavgat, near the village of Okurcalar, 1.5 km to the right of the road. It is accessible by a side road leading north 10 miles [driving instructions]. It is located approximately 10 miles from the Mediterranean Sea at the mouth of the Alara River, in a serene gorge setting. The han sits on the left bank of the fast-running waters of the Alara River at the site where it breaks free from the Taurus mountains to hit the alluvial plane. The han lies in the shadow of the Alara Castle, high up on an isolated rock crag to the east. Alara is thus the name of the river, the castle and the han.

[map]

 

DATE
1231

Above the entry door is an inscription plaque of 6 lines, dating from 629 (1231) which gives the name of Alaeddin Keykubad I, builder of the two Sultan Hans. The upper 3 lines of the inscription are missing. It was built in the same year as the Aksaray Sultan Han and the Evdir Han.

The inscription reads: "...the most august (?)...the exalted king of kings, the master of the necks of the nations, the lord of the sultans of the Arabs and the Persians, the sultan of justice, the conqueror of the regions, of the universe, the sultan of the land and sea of the Greeks, Syria, the Armenians and the Franks, Ala'ud-dunya wad-din Kaykubad son of Kaykhusrev son of Qilij Arslan, the Eminence of the Commander of the Faithful, on the date of the year 629" (1231).

This inscription repeats the same mention of the qualification of "Sultan of Lands and Seas" that appears on the inscription of the Kizil Kule in Alanya. The Sultan conquered the Alara castle, and soon after built in its citadel a two-domed bathhouse with tiled walls and painted imagery on the dome. It is assumed he ordered the construction of the han soon after his conquest of the citadel.

REIGN OF

Alaeddin Keykubad I

 

PATRON
This appears to be a sultan han, commissioned directly by Alaeddin Keykubad I himself.

BUILDING TYPE
Concentric plan

DESCRIPTION

Although both Erdman and Seton Lloyd orient the han to the north, it actually faces to the west. It is located on the old Ankara to Konya trade route. It is the second staging post on the journey to Konya from Alanya. It is built of carefully-joined, finely-hewn limestone blocks, with walls 2m thick.

Standing in stunning countryside, it is a magnificent example in terms of its construction technique, details, dimensions and proportions.

 

Plan

This han possesses one of the most complex and original plans of any han ever built, and has perplexed scholars past and present. It is not a large han, but offers an unusual and ingenious variant to the normal plan typology.


Despite the fact that this is a royal commission by Keykubad, this han is very different than his other two Sultan hans. It is built with a different plan concept, although it was built in the same year as the Aksaray Sultan Han. This han is classed in a different group, called the "concentrically planned" hans, which includes the hans of Esab-i Keyf and Tercan (post-Seljuk). The han is comprised in essence of a central core surrounded by two rings. It is assumed that the inner ring was reserved for travelers and goods, and the outer ring for services and animal stabling.

 

There is separate bath not far from the main building.

 

Main portal and entrance

The entrance facade terminates in chunky crenellations. The main portal is 3.5 m wide and has a flattened arch, and is flanked by two small square towers (the one to the right has collapsed).
The doorway is surmounted by a six-line Arabic inscription framed in a broad stone architrave, which boastfully states that Alaeddin Keykubad is the "Master of Syria and Anatolia, Sultan of the Franks and the Armenians". The side elements of the frame rest upon stone corbels, carved in the form of lion's heads.

 

Entrance corridor and side chambers

After passing through the main door, the visitor enters an uncovered entrance vestibule. A large number of stones with quarrymen's marks are found in this area. There are two rooms on each side of the corridor. Traditionally, the room to the left has been considered to be the mosque, but in reality was probably a hammam and/or fountain. It was given particular attention by the architect. It possesses a quadripartite vault with projecting groins and an octagonal oculus in the middle. This skyhole probably also served as a sundial. There is a recessed fountain basin in the southern side wall. A staircase leads to the roof. A terracotta water drainage pipe leading out of the facade wall was discovered during the restoration of the han, which again suggests that this room was used as a hammam.

The first room to the right after the entrance possesses a mihrab niche in the west wall (not shown on Seton Lloyd's plan), and thus can be assumed to be the mosque. The other two rooms on each side were probably used as administrative offices or storage, as they are today. There are two carved lion's head lamps located in the corridor leading to the right side.

 

Central Corridor/Courtyard
Directly opposite the entrance is a long open central corridor with a row of small vaulted rooms on each side, separated by small open iwans (4 rooms and 3 iwans per side). The corridor ends in a large iwan. The room to the left of the iwan is considered to be the sultan's or a dignitary's room. A drainage gully runs down the entire length of the corridor, and there are occasional carved lion's heads.

 

Historians dispute the original use of this corridor and its side rooms. Although not a service courtyard in the traditional sense, it is difficult to imagine that animals circulated here and that goods were loaded and loaded in this tight and narrow space. This area probably served as accommodations for travelers or for storage of more valuable treasury items. The flexibility of closed and open rooms around the periphery of the corridor offered the travelers a solution to changes in weather.

 

Each courtyard room had a small window slit in the rear wall which gave out onto the side concentric ring. As these windows were not created for light and ventilation, they were most probably "peep holes" onto the side ring. In this fashion, the travelers in the central corridor could use them to keep watch on their animals and goods stored in the next ring.

 

First outer rings

The central corridor and its rooms are surrounded by two concentric rings. The first inner rings are different on each side.

The ring to the north is distinctive due to the 16 oil lamps in the shape of lion's heads that are located at the base of each of the 6 outer pillars and on either side of the peepholes. Waist-high walls are provided on the outer side, which were most probably used as sleeping banquettes for the guards and keepers. These low walls also separated the space from the next outer ring. This section is covered by a barrel vault with 5 small square light oculi in the ceiling.

On the southern side, the space is much less elaborate. There are no lion's head lamps. Once again, the space is covered with a barrel vault, and a raised wall separates the space from the outer ring (probably used as sleeping banquettes). The rings of both sides are connected at the rear by a barrel-vaulted corridor with 7 supporting pillars.

 

Second outer rings

The outer rings are comprised of a long undecorated corridor on each side, covered by a barrel vault. The northern wall is pierced with 7 window slits; the outer wall of the southern wall is blind. The rear wall has a slit opening at the end of each outer ring.

 

Use program

T.M.P. Duggan believes that this han was not used for accommodations of travelers, but was rather a permanent Seljuk state archive and treasury building. The elaborate decoration of stone lions' heads in an area destined for animals, the costly stone floor, the presence of candlesticks and oil lamps in a straw-laden area indeed make one question the attribution by Seton Lloyd of the second concentric ring as the stabling area. Although Duggan's argument is valid, this han was probably used as a staging post, in view of the presence of a mosque. It can be considered that precious goods and travelers probably stayed in the inner corridor cells, commercial goods were stored in the first concentric ring, and the animals were stabled in the second outer ring.

This han was most certainly used by Alaeddin himself and his retinue on their voyages between Konya and Alanya. The segregated plan offered considerable attention to comfort as befitted their station.
The modern sign outside the han states that it was used as a dervish lodge in post-Seljuk times, and was abandoned during the mid-19th century. A local shopkeeper remembers playing in the han as a child, and affirms that the central corridor was covered at that time [sic] which is contrary to what Seton Lloyd recorded in 1958.

 

DECORATION
Most hans were lit by small slit windows in the exterior walls, but here at Alara, the lighting program is highly developed. The han is decorated throughout with some 79 lion head sculptures (approx 12" high) that were used as oil feed for oil lamps or candles. There was a projecting stone at the base of each window of the inner courtyard hall, also carved in the shape of a lion's head. These carved figural stones also appear outside the chambers low on the piers which support the arcading in the stable galleries.  The lion was used as the symbol of the Seljuk power, and is seen on all forms of Seljuk art. According to a legend of the local folklore, their sad faces are a reflection of the homesickness felt by the travelers.

 

The numerous stonemasons' marks furnish a certain, albeit unintentional, decorative element. Each quarryman "signed" the stones he cut in order to aid the tally for payment. Over the years these marks have been considered as good luck omens and are often replicated in the rugs and embroideries of the region.

 

There are also red painted zigzags on the back wall, which was a decorative element favored by Alaeddin Keykubad, seen on his palace at Aspendos and at the Alanya castle. The only other decoration of the han is the elaborate inscription plaque on the portal.
 

The mysterious mason "runes" and the "crying" lions confer to this han a distinctive and appealing decorative signature..

 

Note: The historian Aqsarayi mentions that Baba Ilyas Khorasani, aka "Baba Resul", the Turkmen preacher/ruler took refuge in this han during the rebellion (approximately 1240)

DIMENSIONS
34.5 x 45 m
Overall area: 2,000 m2

 

STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
This han was restored in 1998-2000 by the architectural firm PUSAT in return for rental of the han for 49 years by the Foundations Directorate of the Turkish Ministry of Tourism. The han houses shops and bazaar-like stalls in the inner corridor and in the first ring to the south. A diorama comprising mannequins dressed in traditional Seljuk costumes has been installed in the large iwan to the far end of the central corridor. The second ring is now equipped with dining tables to receive tourist groups, with kitchens installed to the rear.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES
Acun, pp. 454; 476.

Aksarayi, p. 332.

Altun, p. 199.
Bayrak, pp. 85-86 (note the interesting pre-restoration photos).
Bektaş, pp. 74-76 .

Duggan, T.M.P. "The Foundations Directorate wants dollars! Turkish heritage offered in exchange...." Turkish Daily News, June 27, 1998. (available on the internet at www.turkishdailynews.com/old_editions/06_27_98/feature.htm).

Erdmann, no. 58, pp. 184-187.
Ertuğ, p. 79.
Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şiek (2008), vol. 1, pp. 159-61.

Seton Lloyd, pp. 45-48 (was the first to correctly publish the plan; although he failed to include the mihrab in the room to the right of the entrance).
Rice, p. 206.

Yavuz, Ayşil Tükel. "The Concepts that Shape Anatolian Seljuq Caravanserais". In Muqarnas XIV: An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World, Gülru Necipoglu (ed). Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1997, pp. 80-95. She uses the Alara han to illustrate her "Shelter" typology.

 

 

 

 

Alara River

Alara Hill and Castle

 

east outer wall

fountain niche in hammam room

gutter pipes on outer wall

 

rear wall with gutter pipes and crenellations

 

window slits, east wall

diorama mannequins in Seljuk costumes

 

Seljuk Sanjak banner

Mannequins and double-headed eagle, symbol of the Seljuks




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