The art of Ghaznavid, Great Seljuk art and culture developing in Iran, Syria and Baghdad regions, Caucasian arts, regional influences, artwork and artist exchange with neighboring regions, local cultures and Islamic religion of Anatolia all had a strong influence on development of Anatolian Seljuk art and architecture.
Artworks were formed by the techniques of local masters as well as of those coming from outside. In the regions with native populations old traditions were carried on. Differences and synthesis can be seen in all fields of Seljuk art and architecture.
Architecture and architectural elements have an important place in Seljuk art. Although, the state was established in 1076, very few artworks remained from years 1076 – 1200. Most architectural works in Anatolia before the year 1200 belong to principalities such as Artuklu, Saltuklu, Danismendli and Mengucekli. Between the years 1200 – 1308 Anatolian Seljuks created many mosques, madrasahs, hospitals, tombs, cupolas, fountains, caravanserais, taverns, Turkish baths, small dervish lodges, palaces and bridges. The structures were built in accordance with old traditions and schemes but, some new techniques were also applied. The most distinct properties of these structures are usage of cut stones, simple space organization, definition of facades, usage of ceramics in the structure and stone decorations made on monumental doors. The structures usually have flat outer surfaces with big portals in the entrances, 8 m in height, 4 m in width and 2 m thick. Arched doors with muqarnas niches are usually covered with several rows of decorative borders. Minarets upraise on both sides of the doors. Stone decorations are mostly observed on frames. Doors, niches, arches, windows and corners of walls are the architectural structures where stone decorations are used. Decorated doors located on simple walls give an inviting impression. Most structures are made of limestone of different colors and shades used separately or sometimes mixed together. Rarely marbles were also used. Sometimes you’ll find epigraphs and signs on the walls and doors with a name of the architect. Sometimes the master workmen live their specific signs on walls.
Seljuks gave a lot of importance to decoration in architecture. They worked geometric motives like intersecting hexagons, octagons and star shaped figures; plant motives like lotus, bonito, curled branches, leaves, rumi, hatai; quad knots, swastika, muqarnas, rosettes, rigging motives, medallions, animals, dragons, angels and rarely human figures on stone, ceramic and marble materials. Kufic and nesih writings are mostly on located on doors in stripes. These high quality stone decorations are products of very careful works of stone masters and continue to fascinate people even nowadays. Mastership in decorations without a doubt is also displayed in woodwork.
The oldest mosque of Anatolian Seljuks that survived till our times is Konya Alaaddin Mosque that was started in 12. century and was finished in 1220 by Alaeddin Keykubat. The mosque has the style of Ulu Mosque with dimensions 86x57m and surrounded by high stone walls. Except of the dome in front of mihrab, the rest of the mosque is covered with a flat, wooden roof supported by picking columns, picking caps and brick arches. On the inner side of the dome and arches ceramics from Suljuks period were used. Around the mosque you will see geometric stone decorations specific to Anatolian Seljuks. The second important mosque of Seljuks in Anatolian region is Nigde Alaaddin Mosque built in 1223 in a multiple-support plan from cut stones. This mosque with three naves is built on 23x28 m2 area. Three sections in front of mihrab (a niche in the wall of a mosque that indicates the direction of Mecca) are covered with domes and the rest of the structure is covered by arched roofs. In this structure with an open top in the middle section, wide arches rest on short columns. The entrance is from the decorated and magnificent portal higher than the walls on the east side. Mihrab and its portal are decorated with various patterns such as stars, rosettes, geometric figures, chains and knits. Checkered, wide cylindrical minaret is built on an octagonal base and was also used in the first Ottoman mosques. Other mosques with multiple-support schemes are Kayseri Hunad Hatun Mosque (1238), Kayseri Hacı Kilic Mosque (1249), Aksehir Ulu Mosque, Develi Ulu Mosque (1281), Sivrihisar Ulu Mosque, Ankara Aslanhane Ahi Serafettin Mosque, Beysehir Esrefoglu Mosque (1299). Examples to mosques with multiple-support schemes like Nigde Alaaddin Mosque and with naves perpendicular to mihrab are Eltihan Mosque (1299) in Mazgirt district of Tunceli, Amasya Burmali Minare Mosque (1237) Gok Medrese Mosque (1266), Kayseri Bunyan Ulu Mosque (1266), Divrigi Ulu Mosque (1229) with five naves. Opposite to this organization type Sinop Ulu Mosque (1267) resembles the multiple-supported, wide Sam Emeviye Mosque. Malatya Ulu Mosque (1224) with multiple-support scheme and a middle yard with open top is the plan applied in Iran by Great Seljuks. The portion that joins the dome with the yard is arranged as a terrace. Some parts of the mosque are made from cut stones and other parts are built from bricks and there are mosaic and ceramic decorations too. Develi Ulu Mosque built in 1281 has five naves, a yard in the middle portion and the front of the mihrab is covered with a dome.
Another important type of mosques from Anatolian Seljuks period is the ones with wooden pillars with the internal space arranged similar to the mosques with stone columns. In these mosques, the flat roof is supported by one piece wooden columns. The columns that stand on circular, polygonal or square bases are connected to each other by thick crossbeams and have caps on tops. On the caps there are circularly cut bases on that support the roof. The most famous example to this type of mosque is Afyon Ulu Mosque built in 1272. The mosque has nine naves perpendicular to mihrab and around forty hand-decorated columns. Sivrihisar Ulu Mosque built in 1274 has six naves parallel to mihrab inside. The caps of sixty six wooden columns and four engraved columns survived till our times in their original forms. Aslanhane Mosque (1291) in Ankara has five naves perpendicular to mihrab and is a good example to this type of mosques. Another example is Beysehir Esrefoglu Mosques (1299) that has forty five thin, long, wooden columns supporting the roof. The structure has seven naves perpendicular to mihrab, a dome with its inner portion decorated with mosaic tile covering the front part of mihrab and a small yard with an open top in the middle nave. Illumination in Seljuk mosques is achieved by windows on top portions and leaving the top of the central part open or partially covered by a dome. A dome in front of mihrab and well illuminated internal yard are the typical characteristics of all mosques.
Other than normal mosques Anatolian Seljuks have also built smaller mosques, mostly in Konya, without pulpits called mescits, where no Friday prayer or religious festivals were performed. These structures had a square or rectangular architecture with a single dome or dome-like structure and flat roof. Konya Mihmandar Mosque (1207), Besarebey Mosque (1213), Tas Mosque (1215), Erdemsah Mosque (1220), Kucuk Karatay Mosque (1248), Sircali Mosque, Guduk Minare Mosque (1226), Kucuk Ayasofya Mosque (1235) in Aksehir, Tas Medrese Mosque (1250), Aksebe Sultan Mosque in Antalya are examples to these type of structures.
Madrasahs were education centers that have shown a significant development after the 12th century in Anatolian Seljuk architecture and had an important position as a concept and structure. In madrasahs where the most scholar ones were sitting in the front forming a circle, muderrises, muids (assistants) and danismends were teaching students. These structures are divided into two types according condition of the inner court; those with open top and the ones covered with a dome. A deluxe portal, a court with a terrace or a pool in the middle, domes with open tops or illumination domes are the most pronounced characteristics of madrasah. Other than these, the structures may have different covering systems, construction techniques, materials and decorative elements. Even in similar examples, it is possible to see some different meanings.
Madrasahs with covered inner court (with domes)
In Anatolia, before the madrasahs with open inner courts, there were madrasahs with covered inner courts where the yard was covered with a dome. Around the inner court there are colonnades, terraces and small cells. The domes of these structures are covered with colorful ceramics. Magnificent stone-doors reflect the care and delicacy of stone masters. There are also small windows on the walls. The structures with covered inner courts where the rooms open are generally smaller than the ones with open top inner courts. The first example to this is the Danismentli structure Yagibasan Madrasah with two terraces built in 1167 in Tokat. Boyalikoy Madrasah that dates back to 1210 located near Afyon, Sincanli, is a two-floor, symmetric structure. Ertokus Madrasah (1244) located in Atabey district of Isparta has an inner court covered with a dome and is an interesting structure with colonnade and attached cupola. Ince Minareli Madrasah (1258) located near the Konya Alaeddin Mosque has geometric tile decorations on the pandantives and inner surfaces of its dome. The writings that start from both sides of the door continue as stripes in both directions. Konya Karatay Madrasah (1251) that was repaired and turned into a ceramic artworks museum has a central room covered with a dome and a terrace, eight cells and four smaller rooms covered with domes around it. This structure particularly significant for its ceramic tile works, has beautiful main door with double minarets and stone decorations. Cacabey Madrasah located in Kirsehir was built as an observatory in 1272 and has holes on the main dome for observations. Other examples to this type of madrasah are Afyon Cay Madrasah (1258) and Erzurum Yakutiye Madrasah (1315).
Madrasahs with an open top
These single or two-floor structures differ from each other by the number of terraces and the arrangement of colonnade. The top of the central court in these structures are open and not covered with domes. The oldest known example of this type of madrasah is the Cifte Madrasah located in Konya. The madrasah and hospital were built attached to each other in 1205. This is the oldest structure with a hospital built by Anatolian Turks and it is significant for its mausoleum, figure relieves and dimensions. Izzettin Keykavus Madrasah and Hospital (1218) located in Sivas with a central court yard surrounded by four terraces and a colonnade is an example to a madrasah with an open top central court yard. This madrasah was educating doctors and was functioning as a hospital, treating eye, internal, dermatological diseases and mental illnesses. Kayseri Hunat Hatun Madrasah (1237) has a rectangular design and surrounded by colonnades on three sides. It has a main entrance door on its west side, a terrace on the east side, rooms for teachers and cells around the central court yard. Another important structure is the Konya Sircali Madrasah (1242) that got its name for the mosaic tile artworks inside it. The only terrace of the symmetrically designed madrasah is covered with an arched roof and two rooms on its sides are covered with domes. The main entrance door is monumental and glamorous. The two storey Tokat Gok Madrasah built in 1265 is significant for its double minarets and decorative properties. The biggest open top madrasah is Erzurum Cifte Minareli Madrasah built in 1253. Around the courtyard of this two storey building there are colonnades and classrooms in between the terraces. The building was built entirely from cut stones and has beautiful stone decorations on its front part and on the main entrance door. On the right one of two minarets built from bricks and mosaic tile, from which the madrasah got its name, you can see a two-headed eagle image inside a stone border – the symbol of Seljuk Turks. Sivas Gok Madrasah built in 1271 has four terraces that you enter from the main door and a central courtyard with a pool. There are muqarnas decorations on the main door made of marble. The pedestals of two minarets on both sides of the main door are decorated with plant and geometric motives. 12 different animal heads, star and family tree motives are interesting. The main entrance door is significant for being one of the most important examples of Seljuk stone decoration art. Another important madrasah building in Sivas is Cifte Minareli Madrasah built in 1271. Only the entrance part and the monumental portal with double minarets have survived till our times. This structure with four terraces and rooms in between them has a symmetrical design. Other examples of madrasah with open top central courtyards are Sivas Buruciye Madrasah (1272) with four terraces, Corum Kalehisar Madrasah, Kayseri Hacikilic Madrasah (1249), Aksehir Tas Madrasah (1250), Sinop Alaeddin Madrasah (1261), Kayseri Sahabiye Madrasah (1261) with three terraces, Kayseri Seracettin Madrasah (1238), and Corum Huseyin Gazi Madrasah.
Mausoleums and Cupolas
Anatolian Seljuks built simpler cupolas as a continuation of Great Seljuk’s tomb architecture. You’ll find stone cupolas built in square, circular and polygonal styles in Erzurum, Ahlat, Kayseri, Sivas, Tokat, Konya, Nigde, Kirsehir ve Divrig. Some of them were built separately and others are attached to madrasahs and mosques. The ones with black corpus and a dome are called turbe (mausoleum). The ones with cylindrical or polygonal body corpus based on square base and have a dome in the inside and pyramidal or conic on the outside are called kumbets (cupolas). Below the aboveground room, there is an underground, square shaped grave room (kripta) that can be reached by stairs. The mummified body is placed in a grave room that reminds a cell and not everybody can enter this place. There is a symbolic sarcophagus in the aboveground room where visitors are allowed. The outer surfaces, doors, windows, fringes and roofs of these small structures that were built only for sultans and other important political figures are decorated with geometrical and plant motives. The entrance door can be reached by a single or two opposing stairs.
The oldest known monumental grave that remains from Seljuks period is decagonal II Kilicarslan Mausoleum built in 12th century in the yard of Konya Alaeddin Mosque. Sarcophagi of many Seljuk sultans are found in this mausoleum. The Seljuk sultan Izzeddin Keykavus is buried in a decagonal shaped mausoleum decorated with tile that is located in the southern yard of Izzeddin Keykavus Madrasah located in Sivas. Gevher Nesibe Sultan Mausoleum built in 1206 in a decagonal shape is another interesting example. Sitte Melik Mausoleum in Divrigi, Melik Gazi Cupola (1250) with an octagonal corpus located in Kirsehir, Esrefoglu Mausoleum in Beysehir, Hüdavend Hatun Cupola (1312) in Nigde known for its impressive stone decorations, Doner Cupola (1276) located in Kayseri with a square base design, made from a cut stone in twelve sided polygonal shape on the outside and cylindrical in the inside, conical roof and decorated with various motives and Erzurum Cifte Minareli Madrasah Cupola are the graves designed in polygonal shape. Sahip Ata Mausoleum (1268) in Konya, Erzan Hatun Cupola built in 1222 in Ahlat, Melikgazi Cupola (1272) in Pazaroren district of Kayseri and Ali Tusi Mausoleum located in Tokat are examples of the structures with square corpus design and a dome. Mama Hatun Cupola (beginning of 13th century) located in Erzincan Tercan and is built entirely from cut stones with a segmented, cylindrical body has no equals in Anatolia or Iran. Examples to the terrace type mausoleums designed for the first time by Seljuks in Anatolia are Seyitgazi Mausoleum, Aksehir'deki Emir Yavtas Mausoleum (1256) in Aksehir, Kureys Baba Mausoleum (13. century) in Afyon Boyalikoy, Konya Gomec Hatun Mausoleum (end of 13th century) and Konya Seyh Osman-i Rumi Mausoleum. The terrace type mausoleums than open to the outside with a wide vault by their lover corpus are covered by a dome or a cap on top. Torumtay Mausoleum located in Amasya, with its rectangular design resembles the terrace type mausoleums but, doesn’t open with a wide vault. A Seljuk graveyard in Alat that covers around 200 donum (a land measure of about 1000 square meters) area has both cupolas and gravestones inside. Seyh Necmeddin Cupola (1222), Hasan Padisah Cupola (1275), Cifte Cupolas (1278 - 1281), Ulu Cupola with its cylindrical corpus and stone decorations are important monumental grave structures.
Turkish baths built around mosques, because of religious and cleanliness issues were built in accordance with religious architecture. There are also ones built in various locating for commercial purposes. Some examples of Turkish baths that survived till our times are Kayseri Koluk Bath, Kumbet Bath (end of 12th century), Sultan Bath (beginning of 13th century), Hunat Mahperi Sultan Bath (1235- 1238) located in Hunat Hatun kulliye (complex of buildings adjacent to a mosque), Alanya Ickale Bath (13th century), Alanya Alara Kalesi Bath, Konya Sahip Ata Bath, Karatay Bath (1240), Tokat Pervane Bath (1275).
Darussifas and Sifahanes (Hospitals and Health Centers)
The knowledge of medicine in the Islam world was very advanced during the middle ages. Darussifas and Sifahanes that had the same architectural design as madrasahs were places where students were educated lived and patients were treated. Some of them are built attached to another building and some stand separately. A lot of importance was paid to building these types of structures in Anatolia during the Seljuks period. Gevher Nesibe Hatun Sifahane built in Kayseri in 1205 is a simple structure with four terraces. Keykavus Sifahane (1217- 1218) built by order of I Izzettin Keykavus in Sivas, with its 48x68 m dimentions is the largest Seljuk sifahane (hospital). Around the yard with colonnades and four terraces rooms and long wards are located. Turan Melik Darussifa built attached to the behind of the mihrab wall of Divrigi Ulu Mosque (1228) has a simple madrasah design with lantern, four terraces and covered with a arched roof. The portal that goes 2 meters outside has two nested, sharp arches. The structure has decorations on its main entrance door, arched roof and column caps. There are human head motives on the portal.
Hans (like current hotels) and Caravanserai
These non-religious structures were built on North – South path that was considered as Anatolia’s trading roads as well as on the Silk Road between Istanbul and Iran during the Seljuk period. Especially Konya, Kayseri and Sivas were important trade centers. Seljuks were making a lot of profit from this business trade. Khans that were the first commercial accommodation buildings in Anatolia had an important position among the period’s social structures. The distance between two khans was about 35 km, and 15km in mountain regions. The entrance to these khans where caravans consisting of people, cargo and animals were accommodated was from carefully decorated, glamorous monumental main entrance door into the yard with colonnade. In the center of the yard was a small mosque designed in a square plan with four supports and four arches, and structures and buildings with various functions (rooms, bathrooms etc.) around it that reminded palaces, able to meet any needs of the visitors. According to the climate and type of trade, these structures were built with open or closed tops and even some that were in between those two. In unfinished khans that had only closed section, animals and people were staying together. A main axis, arched roof and a yard with terrace are the common features of all khans. Large, simple khans that looked like castle beard all properties of Anatolian Seljuk architecture and were made from cut stones. There are over hundred of these structures in Anatolia that were later renamed as Caravanserai. Because, 9 of them were built by Seljuk Sultans they are called Sultan Khan.
Alay Khan built on the Aksaray – Kayseri road during II Kilicarslan is an example of an early period khan. Sultan Khan built in 1229 on Konya – Aksaray road and Sultan Khan built on Kayseri – Sivas road during the same period by I Alaeddin Keykubat have similar design. From the monumental main door in the entrance of the khan you walk into the yard with a small mosque. The yard has two colonnades and the right part is for animals and cargo. On the left, there are rooms and bathrooms for travelers. Other than the open yard, there is also a closed section. This section has three naves and a lantern. Alara Khan built in 1231 by I Alaeddin Keykubat is a small, functional structure with a rectangular design and covered by an arched roof. Other important Seljuk khans in Anatolia with multiple support system and closed courtyard are Deve Khan (1207) in Seyitgazi, Ergetihan (beginning of the 13th century) on Afyon – Kutahya road, Zalmanda Khan (13th century) on Konya – Ankara road, Ciftlik Khan (beginning of the 13th century) located on Sivas – Amasya road, Oresinhan (13th century) on Aksaray – Nevsehir road, Elikesik Khan on Konya – Doganhisar road, Kuruhan on Malatya – Kayseri road, Sarapsa Khan (1236 - 1245) between Antalya and Alanya, Susuz Khan near Denizli and many others. Examples to the ones with a terrace and open courtyard are Evdirhan (1214 – 1218) and Kirkgozhan (13th century) located on Anyalya – Isparta road, Alacahan (1232) near Alanya and Kargihan (13th century) on Antalya – Konya road. Cay Khan built in 1278 – 1279 on Aksehir – Afyon road is the last khan with Seljuk inscriptions. The inscriptions inside khans contain the names of the architect, work master and the one who made it build.
Manor Houses and Palaces
Since only few examples have survived till our times, there information about Seljuk manor houses and palaces is very limited. According to the archeological findings they were made of crude stones and bricks with four terraces and were decorated with rich ceramics, plasters, mosaics and wall pictures. Seljuk sultans spent their summers in Kubad – Abad palaces located on the side of Keykubadiye and Beysehir Lakes in Kayseri and winters in Alaiye Palace located on the coast of Mediterranean Sea. Only the eastern wall is remaining from the Alaeddin Manor House (end of 12th century) that was built by extending one of the walls of Ickale with bricks by the order of II Kilicarslan and was later repaired by Alaeddin Keykubat. The structure surrounded with balconies is sitting on large, square consoles. The inside and outside parts of the manor house are decorated with tiles and plasters. Kubad-Abad Palace built in 1236 by Alaeddin Keykubad has 50x35 m main palace and sections for servants, a yard, stables and barracks. This complex is important for its ceramic, glass and plaster decorations. The south and east parts of the courtyard laid down with regularly cut stones is surrounded with rooms. From the courtyard it is possible to get into the palace with big hall, terrace covered with bricks, visitor rooms and harem. A navy yard and the remains of 16 structures were revealed under the palace on the coast of the lake during archeological excavations. The walls and arched roofs of the second palace with symmetric design that is smaller than the courtyard of the main palace are still remaining. Keykubadiye Palace (1224 - 1226) located near Kayseri is on the coast of a small lake and composed of three manor houses. Another manor house of Alaeddin Keykubad is a structure with a Turkish bath built in Alara Fortress near Alanya. The structure is built from cut stones, covered with an arched roof and has two rooms located side by side. This part is attached to the bath with an arched corridor. The domes and trumpets inside the Turkish bath are covered with fresco. Hizir Ilyas manor house built in 1241 on Erkilet Hill, has a portal made of white marble. The little, solid structure made of dark colored cut stones resembles Seljuk Caravanserai. Haydar Bey Manor house built in 1252 in Kayseri is also made of a cut stone. This structure has a simple stone architecture inside and a monumental look on the outside.
Ruins of Arkutlu Palace built in the beginning of 13th century in Diyarbakir is surrounded by cross-like terraces, has rich stone and mosaic decorations, a pool, cut stone walls and stone floors. A portion of the Aspendos Theater was turned into a manor house by covering with tile. Aksaray IV Kilicarslan and Antalya Yankoy Hisari (Sillyon) Manor houses are also small and interesting structures.