The Seljuk Han of Anatolia
A big han with a big mystery: why was its highly-decorated crown portal removed from the han soon after its completion and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese in town?
photo by Ibrahim Divarci; used by permission
photo by Ibrahim Divarci; used by permission
general overview of the excavation with collapsed covered section
courtyard southern side aisles
Eravşar, 2017. p. 464; photo I. Dıvarcı
plan drawn by Erdmann
Eğirdir city wall wıth incorporated spolia from the han
detail of city wall; in all certainty originally the decorative element of the main portal of the han
Karpuz, Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri (2008) v.1, p. 375
Karpuz, Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri (2008) v.1, p. 375.
The Egirdir Han is located at the southern end of the lake of the same name, approximately 3 km outside of Eğirdir in the Yeni neighborhood on the Gelendost-Akşehir road, just beyond the Bone Hospital. The Akpinar Mountains are to the west of han and the modern Konya-Isparta highway passes between the han and the Eğirdir River. Modern buildings are located to the south, and the municipal cemetery surrounds the han on the north and north-west.
The Eğirdir Han is located on the historic Konya-Antalya caravan route. It is the last han on the Konya-Eğirdir route, which then linked down to Antalya and the coast. The old caravan road splits in two after Gelendost, with the north branch leading to Akşehir and the southern one to Konya. The western route splits in two after Eğirdir, continuing south to Antalya and west to Isparta-Denizli.
Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev Han
Although this caravan route was often described in Seljuk sources, the hans were not mentioned. Foreign travelers, such as Hamilton, Sterrett and Pace, did, however, mention this han. Hamilton thought the ruins belonged to a castle, and Sterrett made mention of an old bridge outside of Eğirdir over the Boğazsuyu River past the han.
An interesting mention comes from a local man from Egirdir, Süleyman Sükrü Karçınzade. In his book entitled Seyhatül Kubra, he relates a legendary and grisly story about the han that he had heard from the locals:
The Lid Tribe practices sacrificial rites to their idols, whom they call Zaryus-Karyus, and the biggest temple of their religion was the ruins called the Kervansaray to the south of Eğirdir. The king of the Lid Tribe, Fericiyatü-l Sugra Bilubus bin Tantal, sacrified his son two hundred years before Christ in this temple and offered his sons flesh to this idol for his dinner and then served the rest of the body to his noble guests and did other such savage sacrifices as this.
Both sections of the han are in ruins and both portals have been lost, but it has long been believed that the decorative stones from the portal were incorporated into the city walls of Eğirdir, next to the Dündar Bey Medrese. This supposition was definitely confirmed following the excavations, as the similarity of the scale, material and building techniques of the door is undeniable. In addition, the wording of the inscription plaque is more fitting of a han than of a medrese. Thus, it is now possible to confirm that the han was built in 1238.
Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II
The patron of the Eğirdir Han, as indicated in the inscription, was the Seljuk Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II. He commissioned the building in 1238, soon after his conquest of Diyarbakir. In 1301, the crown door of the han was removed and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese, some 60 years after the construction of the han.
The naskh inscription over the crown door of the han, which was removed and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese in the center of the town of Eğirdir 60 years after the construction of the han, reads as follows:
This sacred han was ordered to be built by the great sultan, the supreme shah, the owner of the reins of the umma, the lord of the sultans of sultans of the Arabs and Persians, the sultan of two lands and of two seas, the Zulkarnain of his day, the sovereign of all times, the second Alexander, the sultan of the sultans of the world, supported from the heavens, victorious against his enemies, helper of the protector of the believers, oppressor of the infidels and blasphemers, punisher of the profane and the rebellious, eradicator of the deviants who have abandoned the way of the sunnah way and the trespassers, the founder of justice, the protector of the people, the helper of the caliphate of Allah, the sultan of the Greeks, Armenians, Arabs and Franks, the crown of the Seljuk dynasty, the helper of the world and the Faith, the father of conquest, Keyhüsrev son of Keykubad, son of the felicitous sultan Kilicaslan, son of Mesud, son of Kiliçaslan, the companion of the caliphate May Allah bless his power in the south and west of the earth. In the year of 635
The florid and boastful type of wording on the inscription is similar to the language of the other inscriptions of this sultan.
Covered with courtyard (COC)
Covered section smaller than the courtyard
Covered section with a middle aisle and 2 rows of aisles on each side
7 bays of vaults in covered section
1 arcade of open vaults on the southern side of the courtyard
The han faces west towards Lake Eğirdir and is built on sloping terrain. The han remained buried for a long time. Following the excavations directed in 1993 by Rüçhan Arik and in 2006 by Rüstem Bozer, it was possible to determine the plan of the han. The han shares similar features with the combined plan of 13th century Seljuk Sultan hans, which include a covered section for lodging and an open courtyard with service sections.
The courtyard of the han, located in the east-west direction, is wider than the covered section. It consists of a large courtyard with a single row of 7 open cells to the southern side.
An iwan is located immediately after the entry to the courtyard. On each side of the iwan is a square room which is entered directly from the iwan. One of these rooms located in the entrance iwan could have been used as a prayer space.
Service areas and special accommodation rooms were situated in the south wing of the courtyard. The first five rooms from the entrance are approximately the same depth and are square or rectangular in form. The function of two spaces in the southeast corner of the courtyard, which were interconnected on their inside, has yet to be determined. The opening gap outside the room closest to the corner was probably the location of the furnace of a bath. The sequence of the rooms in the courtyard is similar to what is seen in the Karatay, Aksaray, Kayseri Sultan, Alay and Incir Hans. The room in the southeast corner of the building recalls the baths of the Tuzhisar Sultan, Karatay and Alay Hans.
Covered section: The covered section is smaller than the courtyard. According to the remaining traces and the results of the excavations, it can be determined that the covered section contained a central nave and seven side vaults running in the north-south direction parallel to the western wall. The vaults were reinforced by two square piers each and are covered by pointed vaults lower than the one covering the central nave. The support lines in the east-west direction, which carried the vault of the central nave, were connected to each other by pointed arches in the same direction.
A system of loading platforms, revealed during the excavations, begins at the arch piers on both sides of the central nave and continues as far as the wall behind.
The covered section was reinforced by six support towers placed in the middle of the walls and at the corners.
The crown door of the han was removed and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese 60 years after the construction of the han. To this day, it is not known why the crown door of the han was removed and installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese. Several hypotheses have been put forth. Some researchers believe there was an earthquake which destroyed the han, and others believe that the han was left unfinished and its stones purloined at a later date. Neither theory is satisfactory to explain this mystery. Why was such a large han abandoned so shortly after its construction? Did the political upheaval of the era following the Seljuk defeat to the Mongols at the Battle of Kösedağ in 1243 impact this han? In 1280 Felekeddin Dundar Bey, the leader of the Turkish Principality of the Hamidoğlu made Eğirdir the capital of a small principality. Were the stones commandeered by Dundar Bey of the Hamidoğlu Principality when he built this medrese in 1301 to show that he was the new power in the region? It is to be noted that the famed world traveler Ibn Battuta stayed in this medrese a few years later, in 1330.
The highly-decorated crown door of the han now installed in the Dundar Bey Medrese in town has a pointed arch. The arch is surrounded by five borders; one of them plain and the others decorated with different geometric elements: hexagonal polygons, diagonal stripes, and an ornamental strip of 24-sided polygons in the center. The final plain border surrounds the inscription plaque of naskh calligraphy. The arch rests on small cylindrical columns placed in the corners, and whose surfaces are covered with interlaced geometric elements. The columns end with capitals with volutes and three rows of acanthus leaves. Two circular medallions of different sizes placed in each of the spandrels of the arch. The larger medallions were decorated with polygons with twenty-four sides, while the smaller ones had polygons of twenty sides. The outer border of the crown door contains five rows of muqarnas. The muqarnas sit over pendentives at the lower section. The recessed arch door opening, composed of corner stones of two colors, was surrounded by a border of geometric decorative elements. A half-hexagonal shaped niche is located in the lateral faces of the crown door, which resembles the composition of the crown door of the Incir Han and the Aksaray Sultan Han. These niches were surrounded by a border composed of half six-armed stars. The columns in the corners of the niches have capitals with acanthus leaves.
The north and south walls of the courtyard are reinforced with square towers in each corner and two towers equally-spaced on each side.
Smooth-faced stones were used in most sections of the building, with larger stones used in the lower courses. No mason marks were noted on any of the remaining stones. The reuse spolia materials seen in the Dundar Bey Medrese and the Hizir Bey Mosque in town are said to have been brought from this han, but this remains to be proven.
The stones of the han have been pillaged for many years for other building projects. Some 25 stone fragments from the han are believed to have been used in the city walls next to the Dündar Bey Medrese. If the spolia from this han now incorporated into the city walls is any indication, the portal of the han must have included many decorative elements such as trelliswork, blossoms, arabesques, polygons and braids. A piece of stonework found during the 1993 excavations with geometric designs was found to fit exactly in place in the border of the broken left frame of the mihrab in the Dündar Bey Medrese portal.
Total area: 1,640 m2
Area of covered section: 1,290m2
Area of courtyard: 1,640m2
This is a very large han, with a size comparable with the Sultan Hans of Kayseri and Aksaray. When built, it would have been the third largest han in Anatolia.
STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USE
The ruins of the han remained buried for centuries. The stones of the walls at the foundation level were removed and only the mortar remains. The roof elements have completely collapsed. A major archeological survey and excavation, led by the Isparta Museum, began in 2006. The building is still in a ruined state and has remained deserted since the excavations, with no plans in order.
The han offers a commanding view over the lake at the Kuyucak Mountains to the southeast of the lake. A visit to this han can be combined with a visit to the nearby Gelendost Han. A few days spent relaxing in the tranquil town of Eğirdir on this beautiful lake, reminiscent of Lago Como in Italy, is quite restorative to the soul.
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Bozer, Rüstem. Eğirdir Han. In Acun, H. Anadolu Selçuklu Dönemi Kervansarayları. Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı Publications, 2007, pp. 236-253 (includes bibliography).
Eravşar, Osman. Yollarin Taniklari (Witnesses of the Way), 2017, pp. 464-469.
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Karçınzade, S. Ş. Seyahat-ül Kübra: Büyük Seyahat, 1907. Translated by Salih Şapçı. Eğirdir, 2005, p. 19.
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Sterrett, J. The Wolfe
Expedition to Asia Minor during the Summer of 1885. Boston, 1888, p. 120.
Eravşar, 2017. p. 467; photo I. Dıvarcı
overview of city wall next to the Dündar Bey Medrese, with reuse spolia from the han
sign for research project
general overview of the excavation and collapsed covered section to rear
View of Lake Eğirdir from the han
view onto the Kuyucak Mountains southeast of Lake Eğirdir
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