The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

OBRUK HAN


A veritable museum of reuse spolia stones, this han displays a unique façade and an unusual two-storey layout of the entrance.

 

DISTRICT
42 KONYA

the impressive facade with its distinctive "turret" portal

view from courtyard to rear section

steps leading to 2nd storey mosque over entryway

view from entry across courtyard to rear section

rear section central aisle lined with spolia columns


LOCATION
The Obruk Han is located 74 km from Konya in the village of Obruk, off the main Konya-Aksaray road. Upon arriving at the town of Kizören, there is a turn off to the left towards the village of Obruk, which lies 4 km from the main road. The han sits on a cliff above a small, 30m deep crater lake, called the Obruk ("Sinkhole") Lake), filled with vivid, turquoise blue water. This lake was formed by a land collapse. The han was on the same caravan route as the nearby Zivarik Han, but no traces of this road remain today. As this was a heavily-traveled route, there must have been other hans located along it in the past. The next han in the direction of Aksaray is the Aksaray Sultan Han. This route was heavily traveled in former times and there were undoubtedly other hans along it. The next han after the Obruk Han in the direction of Konya is the Zazadin Han.

 

There is an Ottoman period graveyard to the west of the han.

 

NAMES

As there is no inscription plaque, the original name is not known, but the han is generally considered to have taken its name from the Obruk Lake, an impressive natural phenomena..

References to the han can be found in two Seljuk sources. The Obruk Han is mentioned by Mevlana in his book Fihi Ma Fihi, where he mentions the hans along the Konya-Kayseri road, citing the Ubruk, Sultan and Kaymaz hans. Ibni Bibi, the prime historical resource of the reign of Alaeddin Keykubad I, mentions the han using this name. The han is also mentioned with this name in the travel journals of several 19th century voyagers.

 

DATE
The construction date is unknown. Erdmann estimates the han was built around 1245-50; Kuban dates it earlier, before 1230.

 

However, this han is believed to be the Kaymaz Han mentioned in the text of İbni Bibi. By comparing it with the other events discussed in relation to it, it is considered that the building existed in the time of Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II. The historian Aqsaray mentions that the Pervane Muineddin Süleyman stayed in this han during the struggles between the Mongol Noyan and Rükneddin Kiliç Arslan IV. Seljuk sources also mention the name of the han during the second invasion of the Mongols in Anatolia, stating that the Sultan Izzeddin Keykavus II (r. 1246-57) learned from messengers that the Mongols had invaded the Obruk Han.

 

In comparison to the events discussed in relation to it in historical sources, as well as the mentions in the texts of Mevlana and Ibni Bibi, it is certain that the han existed during the time of Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II, if not earlier.


REIGN OF
Either Izzeddin Keykavus I (1211-20) (as per Kuban) or during the reign of Kılıçarslan IV (1249-1265) (as per Erdmann).

 

INSCRIPTION

There is no inscription plaque.

 

PATRON

Unknown; however, as this is a large han, it is possible that it was commissioned by the sultan.

 

BUILDING TYPE

Covered section with an open courtyard (COC)
Covered section is smaller than the courtyard
Covered section with a 5 naves (
one central nave and two naves on each side, perpendicular to the rear wall)

8 lines of support cross vaults parallel to the rear wall
 

DESCRIPTION
This han was an important stop on the Konya-Aksaray route, and is located between the Zazadin Han (1236) and the Aksaray Sultan Han (1229). The han is oriented east to west. The han lies parallel to the road, with the door facing southwest towards the route. Kuban believes that this was the only han on this road during the first half of the 13th century, and was one of the largest of the early period hans.


The han shows a typical plan for the era: a covered section to the rear of an open courtyard. This is a large han, with a vast courtyard leading to the rear section (19 x 29m). The covered section is narrower than the covered section, which is the typical layout for 13th century sultan hans.

 

Several unusual elements of the plan and the construction of the courtyard of this han differ from traditional han architecture. The main entrance portal leading to the courtyard has two storeys. Significant as well is its castle-like appearance and fortress-like bearing. An iwan immediately after the entry opens onto the courtyard. An open arcade runs along the south wing of the courtyard, connected to the wall behind it by four square piers and arches covered by pointed vaults. There are traces of a stone wall between the piers of the arcade.

 

The facade of the han is severe, with no decoration except for the three window openings of the mosque. There is no elaborate crown portal, or an inscription plaque over the door. This plain flat front and the "turrets" over the door are quite unusual, and impart a distinctive aesthetic personality to this han.

 

covered section:

The covered section has a middle aisle some 5.5 m wide, with a central dome at the crossing of the sixth arcade. There are 8 covered cells on each side, 9 m deep and 3-4 meters wide, with the vaulting running perpendicular to the the side walls. The central nave and the lateral naves of the covered section are supported by two rows of piers. The covered section is comprised of eight cross sections running north to south borne by seven support walls, each comprised of 4 piers. The support walls in the north-south direction are connected with pointed arch barrel vaults running in the same direction. The east-west vault of the middle nave is higher than the vaults of the lateral naves. This vault is supported by ribbed arches running in the north-south direction. The east section of the central nave forms an iwan with its wall line behind the seventh pier. All piers are square, except those facing the central nave.

 

A row of raised loading platforms can be seen in the central nave, as well as feeding troughs for animals. An open dome provides lighting for the covered section. Located in the sixth cross-vault line of support vaults of the central nave, it is set on squinches transitioning to a circular drum. Lighting was also provided by slit windows in the north and south walls, located at the center of each cross-vault. There are no support towers on the exterior walls of the covered section.


courtyard:

An iwan immediately after the entry door opens onto the courtyard. This han displays several unique features in the courtyard. What is very unusual about this han is that the entry has two storeys. Four symmetrical rooms are situated at ground level. The rooms in the corner are rectangular and the inner rooms are square. The rectangular rooms are covered with vaults running in the north-south direction, while those of the square rooms run in the east-west direction. The entrances to this set of rooms varies as well: the rooms on each side of the iwan are entered through the courtyard, whereas those in the corners are entered from the rooms located in the side aisles of the courtyard arcades. A water trough is located on the west wall of the northern room. The exterior walls of the courtyard are reinforced by support towers of different dimensions.

 

Access to the second storey of the entry rooms is via a set of stairs located on the southern arcade. The room containing the stairs, wider than the three other rooms, has an opening with a double arch. Over the door is a flat lintel made from reuse material. Entry to all the other spaces, arranged in enfilade, is through the room reached by the stairs. Two of the rooms are placed to the north of this room and one to the south. The southern room contains the mosque. All the rooms on the second storey are covered with two-centered pointed arch barrel vaults running in the north-south direction. The upper level of the entry is accessible by a set of stone steps located on the southern arcade. The four rooms on this level, arranged in a row, are covered with pointed vaults. The room with the stairs contains a doorway lintel comprised of a handsome piece of spolia material. The rectangular room on the southern end served as the mosque. Its mihrab has unfortunately been damaged by scavengers.

 

The courtyard has two different sets of 5 aisles on each side. The open arcade to the south was probably used for the stabling of animals. The section on the north of the courtyard contained covered rooms with windows, and were probably used for the storage of goods. There may have originally been an open arcade in front of these rooms as well. The exterior walls of the courtyard are reinforced by support towers of different dimensions. There are traces of a canal system to the south of the entrance, and this trough probably was part of the water system of the han.

 

The walls of the han were built using the rubble wall masonry technique, which is commonly seen in Seljuk period buildings. This technique uses two smooth-cut stones filled with small, pitch-faced stones and mortar.

 

DECORATION

This han is a kaleidoscope of antique stones, which constitute a unique design scheme for the han. No other decoration was needed to enhance the appearance of the han. Many fine-quality spolia reuse stones from other buildings have been used in its construction, The reuse material appears mostly on wall surfaces or for support systems, such as columns and beams. Many pieces were used with particular attention to create a specific design. Most of these stone fragments, bearing Christian symbols and inscriptions in Latin and Greek, must have originated from a nearby Byzantine church or monastery. Some of the material were brought from Perta, and ancient city to the west of the han. Their presence attests to the cosmopolitan population profile of Konya at that time. The historian and travel writer El-Herevi, writing around 1215, mentions a Byzantine settlement near Konya in the time of Izzeddin Kaykavus (1211-1220). An archaeological analysis of these stones would need to be researched to determine their origin and date.

 

The covered section main aisle is lined with an impressive procession of columns with flat entablatures.

 

Distinctive as well is the overall castle-like appearance of the entry facade, complete with a set of six turrets with dentils. As such, its appearance is one not generally seen in Anatolian Seljuk architecture. The first exterior arch is pointed and rests on reuse columns. The second arch, below it, imitates the appearance of an entrance iwan with a flattened vault. There are three square flat lintel and jamb windows over the door, above which is a row of six turret-like crenellations. Three square windows are located above the main crown door which projects forward from the main facade. This facade is unique among all the Seljuk hans. There are traces of a trough-like canal system at ground level to the south of the entrance, similar to what is seen in the Kizilören Han. It most certainly constituted the water system of the han.


Note: the patterned "tree of life" kilims of the region of Obruk are some of the most well-known of the repertoire of Turkish flat weave carpets.


DIMENSIONS
Total area (excluding the tower and protruding gatehouse) is 2,335 m2.
Area of hall: 820 m2
Area of courtyard: 1200 m2
 

STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
The roof of the covered section has collapsed, as well as that of the courtyard cells. The facade with its distinctive castle-like turrets is in excellent condition.

 

This han has been undergoing a restoration since 2007 and can be visited. Unfortunately, much of the material of archeological value has been lost: scavengers over the years have substantially damaged the building and removed many of the original spolia pieces.  Sarre visited the han in 1895, analyzed it, and took photos. He published one of these photos, taken in front of the entry crown door, in his book. Oberhummer, a traveler who visited the han in 1899, made castings of the inscriptions of the reuse material in the han. The documentation of these two travelers allows us to see how much damage the scavengers have done to the han. In addition, much of the spolia was removed during the restoration and replaced with tufa stones. Most of the material of archaeological value has been lost due to careless restorations of this han, once a veritable museum of reuse material.

 

Its remote location, solid craftsmanship, vast courtyard, extensive spolia stones, the high arches of the rear section evoking a medieval Norman abbey, as well as the milky turquoise waters of the crater lake behind it make a visit of this han quite memorable.


BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES

Acun, pp. 345-357 (includes extensive bibliography in Turkish); 516.

Aqsarayi, p. 158.

Bektaş, pp. 94-97.

Eravşar O. , The Using of Spolia Materials as Decoration Element in Seljuk Art, 2016.
Erdmann, pp. 127-130, no. 34.

      Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şiek (2008), vol. 2, p. 83.

Kaymaz, N. Pervane Muinüddın Süleyman, 1970, p. 173.

Kuban (2002), pp. 238-239.

Kuş, Selçuklu, pp. 79-80.
Moltke, H. Moltke’nin Türkiye Mektupları,1963, p. 221.

Oberhummer & Zimmerer. Durch Syrien und Kleinasien, 1898, p. 256.

Rice, p. 206.

Sarre, F. Küçük Asya Seyahati, 1998, p. 87, 90, 91.

Turan, O. Selçuklular Zamaninda Türkiye, 1996, p. 495.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

courtyard aisles, northwest

courtyard aisles, southeast

rear section aisles, southeast

rear section aisles, northwest

 

spolia

1999 Turkish stamp depicting the Obruk Han

 

Obruk Göl, the 30m deep tectonic lake to rear of han

 

 

Entry portal as seen from courtyard

 

 

 

 

 

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