The Seljuk Han of Anatolia

SARAFSA HAN


View of northern side with main entry

Entrance (2005)

detail, inscription plaque over main entrance

entry door squinch

southern exterior wall

structure to the west

interior looking west

DISTRICT
07 ANTALYA
 

LOCATION

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 the han easily visible from the road and the sea.

[map]


OTHER NAMES
Şarapsa or Serapsu Han, taken from the nearby village of Şarapsa.
 

DATE
1237-46


REIGN OF

Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II (d. 1246)

 

PATRON
The han was probably was commissioned by the sultan himself. The text on the undated inscription plaque on the main portal merely provides the name of the sultan with no statement of the construction date. The actual builder is thus not 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).
 

BUILDING TYPE

Covered; the covered section comprises one long single nave (C).


DESCRIPTION
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 arched slab with the inscription plaque. This dedication plaque has 5 lines of inscription. There is also a second inscription plaque of 2 lines over the mosque door. These inscriptions show that the han was built in the time of Giyaseddin Keyhüsrev II (r. 1236-46), son of Alaeddin Keykubad I, between the years 1236-1246. The door 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 northern wall of the hall is plain, but the southern wall (towards the sea) has small window niches with pointed arches between each pair of ribs.

 

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 treasury. 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 to south. The mosque door mirrors the main door in decorative concept, with a 2-line inscription from the Qur'an set in a trefoil arch. On either side of the mosque entrance are buttress towers, built using superb spolia examples of Byzantine ionic capitals. The mosque contains a mihrab, surmounted by a lintel of white marble spolia stones. The mosque is reached by a double staircase of 5 narrow steps, and is still used by the local villagers today.

 

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 used 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 lodging area for separate 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.


DECORATION

The decoration is sparse, which indicates that it was perhaps either built very quickly or that it served more as a storehouse than as an overnight lodging stop.

DIMENSIONS
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".

BIBLIOGRAPHIC REFERENCES
Acun, pp. 392-401 (includes extensive bibliography in Turkish); 520.

Bayrak, p. 82 (offers a photo of the han entrance in the pre-nightclub days).
Bektaş, pp. 72-73.
Erdmann, pp. 171-173, no. 53.
Ertuğ, p. 80.
Hillenbrand, fig. 6.61, p. 553.

Karpuz, Kuş, Dıvarcı and Şiek (2008), vol. 1, pp. 157-8.

Kuban (2002), p. 241.
Lloyd, pp. 44-45.

Redford, p. 155.

Reifstahl, pp. 60-62 (offers a welcome view of the han facade in the pre-nightclub days).
Rice, p. 206.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

entrance to the mosque

 

view of interior of the mosque

spolia column to west of the mosque entry door

spolia column at east of the mosque entry door

 

vine-scroll spolia lintel over the mihrab in the mosque

 

commemorative stamp, 1999 issue

 

The Sarafsa Han as seen from the Mediterranean Sea

 

The Sarafsa Han as viewed from the Mediterranean Sea, photo taken in 1963 by John Ingham

 

 

 

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