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Central Islamic Lands

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Richard Ettinghausen et al.

From The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650-1250
© 1987 Yale University Press
Reproduced by permission of Yale University Press

The monuments


Being in control of a newly Muslim area, the Saljuqs of Anatolia had the task of erecting all the buildings which had by then become characteristic of Islamic civilization. The most important was the congregational mosque. An early one at Mayyafariqin (perhaps of the eleventh century) was a simple rectangle (65 by 61 metres) with a court and a hall of prayer eleven naves at right angles to the qibla; pillars and arches carried a flat wooden roof.200 The mosque of Ala al-Din in Konya [378] (built between 1156 and 1235 with later additions) is historically more complicated because it was not built at one time and because it was included within the palace area and also served as a place of burial for princes. In spite of this, its last addition in 1235 was a simple hypostyle in an early Islamic tradition even to the point of using columns and capitals from older buildings.201 A number of other such simple hypostyles, for example at Beysehir and Afyon, lacked courts, and several were almost entirely of wood, reflecting both its availability in the mountains of Anatolia and, perhaps, the impact of Central Asian tradition.

More original plans occur in the much restored Ulu Cami at Kayseri,202 and in the mosques attached to philanthropic and religious institutions, such as the Khuand Khatun complex of mosque, madrasa, and tomb at Kayseri (1237-38), and the mosque and hospital at Divrik (1228-29). The courts have all shrunk to simple central squares. The naves of the Ulu Cami are at right angles to the minuscule court (later domed). In front of the mihrab is a large Persian-style dome. The mosque of Khuand Khatun [379, 380] is divided into square bays, plus a sort of axial nave of two wide bays and a large dome. At Divrik (Divrigi) [381-383] it is a five-aisled basilical hall with a wider central aisle, the naves consisting of rectangular bays except for the square one in front of the mihrab. All three-mosques have three entrances, one on each side other than the qibla, symmetrically arranged only in the Ulu Cami. As can be expected in a newly conquered area with an old history, aberrant types exist as well, for example the three-aisled mosque of the castle at Sivas (1180-81),204 and the Iplikci Mosque (1182-1202) with its three rows of seven square bays with the qibla on one of the long sides and three domes leading from the front door to the mihrab.205

Madrasas were also common. They are of two types. The first, exemplified by the Saraj al-Din (1238-39), Khuand Khatun, and Sahibiya (1267) madrasas at Kayseri,206 the Gök (1271) at Sivas,207 and the Sircali (1242-43) at Konya,208 is closely related to the Syrian and farther eastern types. On a court with porticoes open varying numbers of iwans, of which one is always connected with the entrance. The tomb of the founder is usually by the entrance or on the side opposite it. The interior consists of long halls at right angles to the court. Different from Syrian prototypes are the protruding iwan-like entrances, sometimes framed, as in the Gök madrasa, by two high minarets. The most monumental and remarkable variant of this type, a transformation of an Iranian tradition, is the Cifte Minareli madrasa at Erzerum (1253) [384-386]. Here is one of the earliest instances of afaçade with two minarets. The circular mausoleum is on the axis of the building at the back of a long iwan, and the iwans have two-storey arcades.209

The main centre of the second group, which is more peculiar to Anatolia, is Konya, the capital of the Saljuqs of Rum. There, in the Karatay (1252) [387-388] and Ince Minareli (1258) madrasas [389-391],210 the single iwan-like feature, the long halls, the domed rooms on either side of the iwan, and the magnificent façades are clearly connected with earlier traditions. However the court has been replaced by a dome and the buildings are understandably smaller, a development related of course to the similar abandonment or diminution of the court in congregational mosques, without any major modification of the rest of the building. This change, generally explained as a consequence of the rigorous climate on the Anatolian plateau, had a far-reaching formal significance, especially for the madrasa, for the characteristically Iranian monumental inner court façade based on the iwan was replaced by a building with a large outer façade, planned around a central dome. Probably, beyond climatic reasons, the Christian architecture of Armenia and Byzantium, which consisted wholly of such centrally planned buildings, affected Muslim architects.211

Just as in Iran and Azerbayjan, the single mausoleum, generally known in Anatolia as a türbe, was much more common than in Syria. A few were square212, but the vast majority were polygonal or circular, on high bases, usually with a crypt and a domed interior, with pyramidal or conical roofs, and richly decorated façades. At the curious Mama Hatun mausoleum at Tercan, a circular enclosure surrounded the türbe like an ancient temenos. In central Anatolia there also existed a so-called iwan-tomb with a prayer chamber open at one of its ends and with vaults covering both crypt and main chamber; such are the tombs of Haci Cikinik at Niksar (1183) and of Sayid Ghazi in Eskisehir (1207-08). These tombs are most closely related to those of Azerbayjan, but local traditions may have been involved as well. Oddly enough, funeral architecture was influenced primarily from the Iranian world, whereas mosques and madrasas apparently often arrived through Syria and the Jazira.

As to secular architecture, remains exist of hospitals, for example the one at Divrik whose plan is so similar to that of a madrasa; there were others, for instance the four-iwans one of Gevher Nesibe Hatun in Kayseri and the recently excavated one of Izzedin Keykavus in Sivas; Saljuq Anatolia was known for its great medical schools. Many of the hospitals were attached to mosques, mausoleums, madrasas, and other socially pious buildings. Anatolia in the thirteenth century witnessed the appearance of complexes containing both pious and useful functions, often supported by an endowment, a kind of development which will find a spectacular expansion in later Ottoman architecture.213

Of the great palaces of the Saljuqs, whose wonders are related by the chroniclers,214 only a few walls have remained in Konya, although previous travellers saw more.215 A huge palatial complex at Kubadabad, near Lake Beysehir, has been partly excavated and belongs to the grand tradition of early Islamic palaces. K. Erdmann identified as Saljuq a widespread number of small structures which he called Seraibauten216 - perhaps hunting lodges or bases for agricultural exploitation, as had existed in Central Asia and Umayyad Syria. Of numerous remains of Saljuq fortifications many were destroyed in the twentieth century to make way for new towns.217

By far the most spectacular constructions of Saljuq Anatolia are the superb caravanserais, nearly two hundred and fifty of them from the thirteenth century.218 There are three basic plans. The first is comparatively rare and, like the Syrian examples mentioned earlier, consists of a rectangular or even square building with a central court from which open halls of varying sizes. The second, exemplified by Zivrik Han [392]219, is square or rectangular and lacks a court. The best examples have a central nave abutted by others at right angles, often with a central dome for light and air. The third plan - that of the two Sultan Hans, one near Kayseri220 - is the most remarkable [393, 394]. A court with halls at right angles to its sides precedes a long covered building with a central nave and others at right angles. Superb portals led often to an oratory (at times a separate pavilion in the middle of the court) and to a bath. While their monumentality and construction are peculiarly Anatolian, the last two plans are related to earlier ones in Iran and Central Asia and may well be pan-Islamic. But it is probably more appropriate to consider them as reflections of functional objectives and practical uses in detail which cannot, at this stage of investigation, be reconstructed or even imagined.

Why did chains of caravanserais of such quality emerge so suddenly? Sponsored by the ruling princes themselves, they are in all likelihood a rare attempt to capture international trade at a time of shifting directions for commerce and of constantly moving populations; but how they fit within the economic policies and activities of the time remains to be investigated.

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