The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

KESIKKOPRU HAN


A solid han with an offset entrance, the “Broken Bridge” Han is set in a poetic setting along the banks of the historic “Red” River. Lions on the portal and a decorated mosque are notable features of this han. However, the real attraction here is the Seljuk bridge next to the han, one of the longest in Turkey.

 

The Kesikköprü Bridge over the Kizil Irmak River

Eravşar, 2017. p. 288; photo I. Dıvarcı

Karpuz, Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri (2008) v.2, p. 23

Eravşar, 2017. p. 295; photo I. Dıvarcı

plan drawn by Erdmann

 

DISTRICT
40 KIRSEHIR


LOCATION
This han is located on the Kirşehir-Kayseri Road, 18 km south of Kirşehir on the right bank of the Kızılirmak River. It lies next to a stunning Seljuk bridge spanning the river. This bridge, one of the longest Seljuk bridges in Turkey, has 13 arches, and still possesses its original ornate inscription plaque.

 

The han is oriented east to west and the entrance faces south. The old caravan route, which followed the banks of the Kizilirmak (“Red”) River from the direction of Kirşehir, leads right to the entrance to the han, after which it passes over the bridge and continues to the east. The famous Kizilirmak (the ancient Halys) is, at 1,355 km, the longest river in Turkey. It starts in eastern Turkey and creates a wide bend before reaching its mouth in the Black Sea. In this bend nestled the core of the Hittite Empire (2300-1200 BC).

 

OTHER NAMES

The "han of the broken bridge" appears to have taken its name from the nearby bridge. The Kesik (“Cut”) Köprü Bridge is located to the east of the han and was built prior to the construction of the han. It is believed this name is derived from the damaged and broken parts of the bridge. Numerous travelers, including Tschihatscheff (1849), Barth (1860), Oberhummer-Zimmerer (1899) and Bittel (1942), have mentioned the han and the bridge in their travel journals.

 

DATE
1268 (dated by the inscription plaque over the entry door)


REIGN OF

Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev III

 

INSCRIPTION

Only one inscription exists on this building, located above the entrance door to the covered section. The illegible sections of the inscription were completed by Zeki Oral according to the information found in the deed of the charitable foundation of Kadi Izeddin. There is also an area for an inscription plaque situated above the crown door of the courtyard, but it is empty.

 

According to the inscription, the Kesik Köprü Han was built in the time of the Anatolian Seljuk Sultan Keyhüsrev III, son of Kiliçarslan IV, by Nureddin Cebrail Bey, the son of Cacabey, Emir of Kirşehir in Hijri 667 (1268) in the month of Muharrem.

 

The inscription plaque of the bridge, submerged under water, was discovered by Özgüc. According to the information provided on the inscription, the bridge was built before the han.


PATRON
The patron of this han is Vizier Nureddin Cebrail Bin Caca (1240-1301), who was vizier and governor of Kirşehir during the reign of Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev III (1266-1283). He was the powerful ruler of the region. He was made governor of the city in 1261, and held the post as late as 1271. He is responsible for numerous foundations in Kirşehir, Kayseri, and other cities. He is especially noted for the medrese/observatory he built in Kirsehir (1272) with its famous reflecting pool to study the stars and its unusual pointed dome. In this medrese, instruction was given in the Turkish language, which was unusual for the time. He received letters from Mevlana and was interested in the teachings of Haci Bektaş Veli. 


BUILDING TYPE

Covered with open courtyard (COC)
Covered section is smaller than the courtyard
3 parallel aisles running perpendicular to the back wall
6 bays of vaults
 

DESCRIPTION

The Kesik Köprü Han comprises a covered hall and a courtyard in front of it including the service areas, notably a mosque. The han faces west.

 

The off-axis orientation of this han is unusual, with the covered section to the side of the portal and not directly on axis, as is the general rule for most hans (other hans with this type of off-axis orientation are the Ağzikara, Zazadin and Durağan hans).

 

Courtyard: Entry to the open courtyard section is from the south side through an iwan. There is a room with flattened arch opening on each side of the iwan. Access to the roof is via stairs placed on a bracket set on the wall facing the courtyard.

 

Opposite the entry, flush with the northern wall, are four iwans of differing dimensions, each covered with a pointed tunnel vault and opening directly onto the courtyard.

 

The room located immediately to the left (west) of the iwan was designed as the mosque, and contains a mihrab niche and windows. It is covered with a pointed tunnel vault in an east-west orientation. The south wall is the most decorated wall and contains the mihrab. The semi-circular mihrab is framed with three borders with geometrical decoration and two rosettes in carved stone.

 

Covered section:  The covered section is divided into three naves with two support walls, with six pointed arches in each nave. Horizontal connecting belts running in the north-south direction are located in the lateral naves at the base of the second and fourth piers. The piers are connected to each other with horizontal belts placed in a north-south direction. The middle nave is higher and wider than the lateral naves. The naves are covered with pointed barrel vaults placed in the east-west direction.

 

The interior of the covered section is lit by two windows situated in the third and fifth sections of the northern and southern walls.

 

Exterior:

The main material used for construction is a porous tufa stone. No reuse spolia materials were used in the construction of the han.


DECORATION

There is a powerful decoration of key motifs over the arch of the main door. Other decorative elements include snakes, bulls, and braids. Particularly noteworthy are the lion figures on the door of the covered section. In addition to these, it is believed that there was once a double-headed eagle figure over the door.

 

The mihrab in the mosque is elaborately decorated with carved stones.


DIMENSIONS
Total area: 1000m2
Area of Hall: 310m2
Area of courtyard: 510m2


STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
The original structure remained in good condition over the centuries, and is surrounded by a village. The structure was repaired in 1990 and again in 2008, and is currently being used as a restaurant and a municipal wedding hall. The raised loading platform in the middle nave was removed during the repairs, some elements were added and, alas, the crown doors were covered over by concrete screed with a mosaic pattern.

 

The setting of this han, in a quiet village next to the impressive Seljuk bridge over the rapidly flowing waters of the Kizil Irmak, is quite dramatic. Walk across this long bridge, savor its peaceful setting and the sounds of the Kizilirmak River flowing under you, and imagine for a moment that you are a caravan heading towards the welcoming door of this han at the end of a tiring day.


 

BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

Acun, H. Anadolu Selçuklu Dönemi Kervansarayları. Ankara: Kültür Bakanlığı Publications, 2007, p. 510.

Altun, Ara. An Outline of Turkish Architecture in the Middle Ages, 1990, p. 200.

Barth, H. Reise von Trapezunt durch die nördliche Hälfte-Klein Asiens nach Scutari im Herbst, 1858. Gotha: 1860, p. 70.

Bittel, K. Kleinasiatsche Studien. Istanbul, 1942, pp. 11-12.

Denknalbant, Ayşe. “Anadolu Selçuklu Dönemi Mihraplari Içinde Yeni bir Örnek: Kirşehir Kesikköprü Kervansarai Mihrab”. İnternational Symposium on Turkish Art and Archaeology (in Honor of Rüçhan Arık-M. Oluş Arık), 25-27 April 2007. Konya, 2007, pp. 273-289 (includes pictures of mihrab decoration).

Eravşar, Osman. Yollarin Taniklari (Witnesses of the Way), 2017, pp. 288-295.

Erdmann, Kurt. “Notizen sum inneranatolischen Karavansaray beobachtungen auf einer reise im Juli 1953.” In Kunst des Orients II. Weisbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1953, p. 9-12.

Erdmann, Kurt. Das Anatolische Karavansaray des 13. Jahrhunderts, 1961. Vol. 1, pp. 74-77, no. 21.

Hillenbrand, R. Islamic Architecture: Form, function and meaning, 1994, Fig. 6.46, p. 552; 6.47, p. 347.

Ilter, İsmet. Tarihi Türk Hanları. Karayolları Genel Müdürlüğü Publication, Ankara 1969, p. 50.

Karpuz, Haşim. & Kuş, A. & Dıvarcı, I. & Şimşek, F. Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri, 2008, vol. 2, pp. 22-23.

Kiepert, R. Karte von Kleinasien, in 24 Blatt bearbeitet, 1902-1916.

Oberhummer, R. & Zimmerer, H. Durch Syrien und Kleinasien, 1898, p. 220.

Özgüç, Tahsin. Uç Selçuklu Abidesi: Dolay Han, Kesikköp Kervansarayi ve Han Camii. Türk Tarih Basimevi, 1955.

Özgüç, Tahsin & Akok, M. Uç Selçuklu Abidesi: Dolay Han, Kesikköprü Kervansarayi ve Han Camii. Türk Tarih Basimevi, 1958, pp. 256-257.

Rice, Tamara Talbot. The Seljuks in Asia Minor, 1961, p. 206.

Tschihatscheff, P.A. Reisen in Kleinasien und Armenien, 1867, p. 31.

Ülgen, A.S. Kirşehirde Türk Eserleri. Valiflar Dergisi (2), 1942, pp. 254-356.1942.

Ünal, R.H. Osmanli Öncesi Anadolu-Türk Mimarisinde Taçkapilar. Izmir, 1982, p. 106).

 

 

 

 

 

Eravşar, 2017. p. 291; photo I. Dıvarcı

 

Karpuz, Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri (2008) v.2, p. 23

 

axonometric drawing showing the unusual orientation of covered section in relation to the main portal

 

Eravşar, 2017. p. 293; photo I. Dıvarcı

 

View of han from the Kesikköprü bridge

 

Central aisle of covered section

 

Main portal with

inscription plaque (kitabesi)

 

Portal leading to the covered section

 

View into courtyard from main entry

 

Detail of key decoration of main portal

 

Karpuz, Anadolu Selçuklu Eserleri (2008) v.2, p. 22

 

 

 

 

 

for a series of photos of the han taken in 1989 by John Ingham, click below:

 

 

Main portal entrance

Portal to covered section

Detail portal, showing animal figure

Portal detail, showing animal figure

 

 

 

 

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