The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

ESHAB-I KEHF HAN


 

ribat portal

DISTRICT
46 KAHRAMANMARAŞ
 

LOCATION
This han is located 5 km west of the village of Afşin, 16 km past Elbistan on the Göksun road.

[map]
 

OTHER NAMES
Afşin Han


DATE
First quarter of the 13th century
 

REIGN OF

Alaeddin Keykubad I
 

PATRON
Although the inscription plaque has been lost, the patron is believed to be Nasr ad-Din Hasan ibn Ibrahim. A former slave, he became governor of Maraş under Alaeddin Keykubad from 1211 until at least 1232.
 

BUILDING TYPE

Concentric
 

DESCRIPTION
The complex: This han is part of a complex: in addition to the han, there is a mosque (once a Byzantine church) and a ribat (fort). All form a building complex called the Eshab'ül Kehf Külliyesi. The church was a pilgrimage site in Christian times, and the whole complex has continued as such in Islamic times.

 

The ribat:

It is the magnificent ribat, with its finely-decorated portal, that is the highlight of this complex, and is one of the most outstanding examples of Seljuk military architecture. Sitting high on the hill, the ribat dominates the entire complex. The han is situated below it, and is a more modestly-decorated structure. The facades of the two structures face each other.

 

A large tandir (underground baking oven used for bread) is located above the ribat, on a high hill. This oven is located next to a large flat rock used for rolling the bread dough. Similar tandirs have have been discovered in other hans.

 

The mosque:

Next to the ribat is the mosque, built on the site of the former pilgrimage church. Extensive spolia and marble column capitals from the former church remain inside the mosque. Many of these are notable examples of marble stonecutting.

 

The han:

The han faces south. The concentric plan comprises a central courtyard and a stable area that runs along the western long side of the courtyard.


The courtyard contains open and closed rooms on 3 sides (8m wide and 21 m deep). There are three open iwans on the east and west sides, with closed rooms between them. The south side has a larger iwan flanked by two closed rooms. The north entry has a guard room to the east and a room to the west which leads to the long covered hall on the west of the structure.

 

A large, covered hall (5.5 m wide and 31 long) runs the entire length of the western part of the han. There are no windows in the walls. This area was used as the stable area.

 

The plan of the Eshab-i Kehf Han differs in certain features from the traditional Seljuk Han plan. It consists of open and closed rooms arranged around a long, narrow courtyard. On the western side there is an L-shaped stable section. Directly opposite the entrance is a large iwan with vaulted rooms on each side. This concentric plan is similar to the plans of the Alara and Tercan hans. This unusual han as such is more similar to a medrese in plan than the traditional courtyard han.


No bath has been noted. The water source was from the spring located below the ribat.
Inside of the ribat there is an underground spring which links to the Esab-i Kehf underground springs and caves, 3 miles to the west.

 

This han is located in a highly scenic area, atop a small mountain, offering a majestic view of the countryside below, ringed on four sides by mountains.

 

DECORATION
The arch of the portal door of the ribat is filled with a highly-decorated program of of muqarnas (stalactites) and rosettes. The portal of the han is simple, and the inscription plaque has been lost.

DIMENSIONS
850m2 (external area)


STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
The entire complex is in excellent condition, and was completely restored in 2008. The han may be visited (ask guardian in house above to open). The site is highly-frequented on Fridays for prayer and on the weekends for picnics, and the drinking water of the spring below the ribat is highly prized. The complex, with its history, prominence of site and serene setting, retains the spiritual atmosphere of the Christian pilgrimage site. Today, visitors tie votive wish ribbons to the trees and bushes on the hill above the complex.


BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

Acun, pp. 436-447 (includes extensive bibliography in Turkish); 497.

Altun, p. 199.

Aslanapa, Oktay. "Anadolu'da Ilk Türk Mimarisi", p. 118, Ankara: Atatürk Kültür, Dil ve Tarih Yüksek Kurumu, 1991.
Bektaş, pp. 128-129.
Erdmann, pp. 187-188, no. 59.
Guide bleu, p. 662.
Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şiek (2008), vol. 1, pp. 398-399.

Rice p. 206.
 

 

 

 
 

 

commemorative stamp, 2001 issue

 

 

For further views, click on thumbnails below:

entry to kulliye complex

elaborate stalactite portal of the ribat

overview of ribat

detail of portal carving

side niche of ribat portal

entry hall to ribat

spolia capital head in mosque courtyard

niche in mosque (former altar area of church?)

underground spring in mosque

mosque

spolia capital in mosque

spolia capital in mosque

spolia capital in mosque

spolia capital in mosque

mosque interior showing spolia columns and capitals

patio area outside of mosque

tandir (cooking oven) on hill above ribat

tandir stone used for making bread

ribat facade

ribat portal

inscription plaque over ribat portal

detail of exquisite carving of ribat portal

detail of carving on ribat portal

overview of han

rear view of han

interior view of courtyard of han

covered side hall to west of han

cross-vaulting in courtyard room

view of courtyard room

courtyard room

courtyard room

courtyard room, west

courtyard rooms, east

courtyard room

overview of courtyard, east

overview of courtyard, looking south

overview of han courtyard, looking west

view of courtyard, west

countryside near Afşin

countryside near Afşin

view from ribat

view from ribat

 

 

 

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