The Seljuk Han of Anatolia
View of northern side with main entry
detail, inscription plaque over main entrance
entry door squinch
southern exterior wall
structure to west
interior looking west
This han is located off the main Alanya-Antalya road, about 15 km northwest of Alanya, on the Manavgat Road. It is about 100 m to the north of the road, and is located next to a stream, the Sarepsu River. It sits upon a small bluff of moderate elevation, making it easily visible from the road and the sea.
Şarapsa or Serapsu Han, taken from the nearby village of Şarapsa.
Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II (d. 1246)
The han was probably was a commission by the sultan himself. The text on the undated inscription on the main portal consists simply of the name of the sultan without a statement of foundation. The actual builder is thus not strictly speaking specifically cited, but it would seem probable that it was indeed a royal commission by the Sultan. It is the third of the hans built by this sultan (Eğridir in 1237 and Incir in 1238).
Covered; the covered section comprises one long single nave (C). This is the only covered han dated by inscription.
This han, facing south, is the first staging post along the "Seljuk High Road", established by Alaeddin Keykubad along the Mediterranean coast to ensure communications between Alanya and the capital at Konya. It is the first han west of Alanya and is the Seljuk han closest to the sea.
The han is one long, rectangular block of masonry which stretches from east to west, making it one of the most distinctive in plans.
The façade is constructed of cut stone and the other sides of aggregate stone. The stone is a rather porous square-cut limestone laid in finely-jointed courses of 1-2 m.
The main entry to the han is located in the middle of the north façade (landward
side, in between the 4th and 5th buttresses; see below). It is built of
limestone and projects out from the wall. The impressive original architrave
frame has now disappeared. The main entrance forms a niche with an outer,
semi-circular arch, comprising a funnel-shaped vault supported by two squinches
in the corners. The vault encloses a pointed arch slab with the
inscription plaque. This plaque has 5 lines of inscription (there is
also an inscription plaque of 2 lines over the mosque door.) These inscriptions show that the han
was built in the time of Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II (d. 1246), son of Alaeddin
Keykubad I, between the years 1236-1245. The door itself is comprised of
simple voussoir arches.
The unusual plan consists of a single, long hall resembling a tunnel with its narrow barrel vault. This vault is 15 meters wide and 70 meters long. The hall is divided into 9 bays by transverse arches. The hall is reinforced on the exterior with 24 closely-placed outer square reinforcement towers, with windows in between them (9 buttresses per side, plus 4 square blind corner towers.) The "buttresses" correspond to the ribs of the interior construction. The main hall is barrel-vaulted (slightly pointed) on the interior with 8 ribs at regular intervals. The ribs spring starting at the ground.
The plan of this han is unique, having no
other parallel in or out of Turkey. It has been argued that it was not
originally built to be a han, but for another purpose, perhaps a military storehouse or a
There are a series of earthen platforms, raised about 30 cm, which probably served
to ease unloading or loading of cargo. There is no access to the roof, so
it is doubtful that it was used for a military watch post. The interior of the
storage hall is somber and dark, with the appearance of a warehouse.
There is a vaulted mosque annexed to the left (east) of the entry which forms a separate section. It has its own independent entrance from the outside located between the 9th buttress and the eastern corner tower of the northern face. The mosque comprises a small room, covered by a barrel vault running north-south. The main door mirrors the main door in decorative concept, with a 2-line inscription from the Koran placed in a trefoil arch. On either side of the mosque entrance are buttress towers, with superb examples of spolia of Byzantine ionic capitals. The mosque contains a mihrab, surmounted by another outstanding lintel of white marble spolia. The mosque is reached by a double staircase of 5 narrow steps, and is still used by villagers today.
The north wall of the hall is plain, but the south wall (towards the sea) has
small window niches with pointed arches between each pair of ribs.
To the west of the han are the remains of a smaller building, with only 1
tower still standing. It was originally a two-story structure. The use of
this tower is unknown; it was perhaps a watch tower to survey activity coming
from the sea; or perhaps it served as a small, but separate sleeping chamber for the
sultan and his retinue, as the han has no enclosed area for humans separated from
the stabling area.
The next han down the road towards Antalya is the Alara Han. The water source for the han is a small brook that runs nearby.
The decoration is so spare that one is led to believe that it was either
built very quickly or that it served more as a storehouse than as an overnight
Inner area of the hall: 560m2
Outer area of the han: 760m2
Dimensions of the long narrow tunnel: 9 X 62 m
STATE OF CONSERVATION, CURRENT USAGE
The han was used as a barn for many years. It has now been restored and is in excellent condition. It is currently used as a tourist trade nightclub, called the "Ali Han" Kervansaray.
Acun, p. 392-401 (includes extensive bibliography in Turkish); 520
Bayrak, p. 82 (offers a photo of the han entrance in the
Bektaş, p. 72-73
Erdmann, p. 171-173, no. 53
Ertuğ, p. 80
Hillenbrand, fig. 6.61, p. 553
Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şimşek (2008), vol. 1, p. 157-8.
Kuban (2002), p. 241
Lloyd, p. 44-45
Redford, p. 155
Reifstahl, p. 60-62 (offers a welcome view of the han facade in the
Rice, p. 206
entrance to mosque
view of interior of mosque
spolia column to west of mosque entry door
spolia column at east of mosque entry door
vine-scroll spolia lintel over mihrab in mosque
commemorative stamp, 1999 issue
The Sarafsa Han as viewed from the Mediterranean Sea
The Sarafsa Han as viewed from the Mediterranean Sea, photo taken in 1963 by John Ingham
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