The Seljuk Han of Anatolia



The big question is: who paid for all this building? Who footed the bill for the Seljuk construction boom of 13th century Anatolia?

As was the case for medreses, fortresses, mosques and hospitals built in the Seljuk era, it turns out that many different types of patrons invested in this visionary venture: sultans (6), the royal family (7), government administrators, the military class, the middle class, as well as some modest private citizens (2).

It is certain that these patrons were wealthy, and in some cases, perhaps as wealthy as the sultan himself. The viziers and emirs were a particularly prosperous class of statesmen, and they were charged by the sultan to engage in building projects in their own regions to help build up the empire. Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad in particular, was very demanding of his emirs for their participation, requests which were not always well-received. Information concerning these patrons is gleaned directly from the inscription plaques of certain hans, which provide precise details about their patrons. It must be remembered that not every inscription plaque listed the donor.

These patrons were men – and, in rare cases, women (2 or 3). Only two woman for certain built hans, Ruqiya Hatun and Mahperi Hatun. It has been suggested by Redford that Ismat al-Dunya wa l’-Din, the third wife of Alaeddin Keykubad and daughter of Mughith al-din Tugrul Shah, was perhaps responsible for building several hans, but this has not been ascertained.

The inscription plaques of hans provide us much information on the patrons of hans.


Hans built by the Sultan (the so-called "Sultan Hans"):

Erdmann states that of the hans built before the Mongol conquest in 1243, eight of them were direct commissions by Seljuk sultans. These are a minute fraction of those that were built and even those that still survive today. However, they are more than the number of royal commissions for mosques and medreses. Royal commissions include the Evdir (Izzedin Keykavus I), Sultan Han Aksaray, Alara, Sultan Han Kayseri (Alaeddin Keykubad I), and the Incir (Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II) Hans.

The Seljuk sultans were interested in building monuments to meet the needs of the citizens of the empire, but also to validate their power and influence, much like modern patrons who donate wings to museums and libraries and emblazon their names across the facades. The sultans concerned themselves mostly with the construction of hospitals, military defense structures, city walls and hans, rather than religious and educational buildings.

Since so many hans have disappeared, it is tempting to speculate that the Seljuk Sultans must have made a wider effort to establish an infrastructure for trade and commissioned even more than 8 hans, but the likelihood that all traces of a building as large as a sultan han would have been lost. Often confusing the issue is the fact that the mention of the epithet “al-sultani” (of the Sultan) appears on the inscriptions of 5 hans built before 1243. It cannot be ruled out that this mention could this signify that they, too, were a part of an official commission.  


Built under the direct patronage of Izzeddin Keykavus I (r. 1211-1220):

Evdir Han


Built under the direct patronage of Alaeddin Keykubad (r. 1220-1237):

Sultan Han Aksaray (1229)

Alara (1231)

Sultan Han Kayseri (1232-36)


Built under the direct patronage of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II (r. 1237-46)

Incir Han (1238-9)

Kirkgöz Han (attributed; not certain) 


Hans built by members of the royal family: 

According to Erdmann, Mahperi Hatun may have sponsored the building of 7 hans between the years 1239-1242. Only two are attributed according to an inscription, and the other 5 hans cannot be attributed with full certainty, but tradition assigns them to her. After 1243 and the Mongol conquest of Anatolia, Seljuk rulers are no longer recorded as patrons of architecture. At this point, patronage is taken over by the grand viziers, notably the powerful patrons of Karatay, Sahip Ata and Muineddin Pervane. Thus, Mahperi Hatun and her son were the last royal patrons of Seljuk architecture.  

Pazar Han: dated by inscription

Cimcimli Han (1239-40?) The Cimcimli Sultan Han is directly connected to MH through the fragments of a foundation inscription in her name, now found in a nearby mosque and which may have belonged to the han.

Cekereksu Han (1239-40?)

Tahtoba Han (1238-46?)

Ibipse Han (1238-46?)

Ciftlik Han (1238-40?)

Ezinepazar Han (1238-40?)


Hans built by government dignitaries and viziers:

It is also certain that the most important viziers of the land, such as Karatay, commissioned hans. After the defeat of the Seljuks at the hands of the Mongols at the Battle of Kösedağ in 1243, the Seljuk state became dismantled under their authority. The weak Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev lost all absolute power for the sultanate, and the reigns of the government were taken over by upper ranking statesmen, bureaucrats and viziers, notablY Karatay, Sahip Ata and Süleyman Muineddin Pervane. These statesmen had to tread difficult waters, all the while trying to placate the Mongols and to keep a semblance of order for the people. This power shift had a huge impact for Seljuk architecture, for these individuals took over the patronage of new constructions, and effectively became the tastemakers of the latter 13th century, shaping the architectural features of the times. Obviously, the construction of military structures such as city walls and fortresses ceased at this time, and the building activity focused on the building of medreses, which are some of the most outstanding examples of Seljuk architecture. What is interesting is that despite the political upheaval, cultural life went on, and, even flourished to a great extent. The building boom of the early 13th century did not stop. Money for patronage continued to flow, trade was not interrupted, and the general population continued to prosper, despite the initial destructive chaos of the Mongols, who razed many cities and killed thousands after the Battle Kösedağ. One thing was certain: the viziers were now in control, and the buildings they commissioned reflected this change in the power paradigm.



 Saadettin Köpek




 Camedar Esudüddin Ruz Apa


 Sahip Ata


 Pervane Muineddin Suleyman bin Ali


 Şemseddin Altinapa



Hans built by lesser-known dignitaries in service to the government (the emirs):  


 Emir Kandemir (Kurucesme)


 Esededdin (or Izzeddin) Ayaz bin Abdullah el-Sahabi (Çardak)


 Nasr ad-Din Hasan ibn Ibrahim (Eşhab-i Kehf)


 Vizier Nureddin Cebrail Bin Caca (Kesikköprü)


 Seraceddin Ahmed Kerimeddin bin El Hasan (restoration of the Sultan Han Aksaray)




Hans built by Charitable institutions:










Hans built by Private patrons:

            Kadin Han (1223-4)





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