In the beginning of the second millennium A.D., the Seljuks, a family descended from the Qiniq clan of the Oghuz Turks conquered Anatolian cities like their antecedents, the Hittites, the Phrygians, the Greeks and the Romans did before. Originating from Transoxiana (“Beyond the Oxus”, around Bukhara) and Khurasan, they reached Anatolia via the capital of the first Seljukid Sultanate, Nishapur, in western Iran. They gradually took control of almost all the cities of the eastern and central Anatolia. The Seljukid power was consolidated at the end of the twelfth century around the capital city of the Sultanate, Konya.Alpaslan, was responsible for the defeat of the Byzantine army at the battle of Malazgirt in 1071. This decisive battle, at which the Byzantine commander Romen Diogenes was taken by the Turks, was the turning point for the Seljuks as it marked the beginning of migration by the Turks to Anatolia.

“In their motherland, before the end of the tenth century, the Seljuks were not illiterate  nomads engaged in animal husbandry. This view contrasts with the misconception that the Seljuks pre-eminently inherited the cultural traditions of a nomadic life style adjusted to the topography of the Eurasian steppes. Before their migration to Iran and Anatolia, the Turks in Transoxiana and Khurasan were pursuing a sedentary life. As Richard N. Frye points out “Turks were town and village dwellers, except in regions where natural conditions imposed a nomadic life on them” (Frye, 1979, p309,312). The members of the Seljuk family accepted Islam in the last decades of the tenth century near the city of Jend. This predilection and their succeeding progress towards west attested the will and ambition of the Seljuk family to enter into the scene of history as one of the Middle Eastern nations. On the way to Anatolia, they had already mastered Islamic-Arabic Iranian culture.

The architecture of the Seljuks in Anatolia comprises a variety of foreign and local elements. The fusion of the alien elements with the indigenous ones brought the “Anatolization” of the Seljukid architecture. One of the best examples to illustrate this process is the Great Mosque and Hospital (darussifa) Complex in Divrigi. In analyzing its structure, we may also comprehend one of the significant artistic synthesizes realized in the cultural history of Anatolia..

Seljuk Symbolism
The realm of zoomorphic,  anthropomorphic, plant and geometrical representations composed of lions, eagles, sphinxes, harpies (sirens), dragons, human heads, stars, sacred trees, lotus and palmate flowers in the decoration of the buildings represents a unique way of illustrating cosmological and philosophical notions. The depiction of these motifs coincide with the refinem ent of  tasavvuf philosophy in the thirteenth century Anatolia. The concepts substantiated by the decorative motifs are the main constituents of the antique or contemporary philosophical,  eschatological and cosmological themes which were adopted by the mystics of the time in their works to explain the nature and the order of the universe. When compiled these concepts can present an overall idea about the world view of the man in the Islamic Middle Ages. The notions which shaped the architectural decoration and the architecture of the Anatolian Seljuks are analogous to the ones that created the architecture and art of the Gothic Cathedrals (Peker, 1996, p9210-21). This theme awaits a detailed comparative study.” (Prof. Ali Uzay Peker, Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Architecture, Ankara, Turkey)

Artworks / Mosques of the Seljuk Period
The first Turkish mosque in Anatolia was the Diyarbakir Ulu Mosque. This mosque is still in use today, having been restored on several occasions. It was followed by the Siirt Ulu Mosque, which was repaired in 1129 and is notable for its thick cylinder shaped minaret.

The gate knockers of the Silvan Ulu Mosque, which was constructed by the Artukids, are preserved in the Turkish Museum of Islamic Art, and are a shining example of their metal workmanship. Among other Artukid works of art are the Mardin Ulu Mosque, the Harput Ulu Mosque and the Kiziltepe Ulu Mosque.

Erected by the Danishmendids in 1197, the Sivas Ulu Mosque thought provoking with its written inscriptions and porcelain tiles found at the base of its minaret. The Saltuks erected a brick tower next to a small mosque in Ickale, Erzurum, and called it the Tepsi Minare (Tray Minaret). The Mengujek’s greatest surviving artwork is the incredible stone masonry work found on the crown gates of the Divrigi Ulu Mosque, which was built in 1228-1229. The first Anatolian Seljuk mosque was that of the Konya Alaeddin Mosque, which was erected in the year 1219. Several carpets which reflected the Seljuk art of carpetmaking were found in this mosque as well as on the Beysehir Esrefoglu Mosque and are currently on display at the Turkish Museum of Islamic Arts.

Other prominent Seljuk mosques include the Nigde Ulu Mosque, the Malatya Ulu Mosque (1224), the Burmali Minaret in Amasya, which was constructed entirely from cut stone (1237-47), the Sinop Ulu Mosque (1267) and the Gok Medrese Mosque.

After the fall of the Seljuks, mosques were built to reflect the characteristics of the period as well as those found in the principalities. Two examples of this are the Adana Ulu Mosque, which is a remnant of the Dulkadirogullari and the Antalya Yivli (Grooved) Minaret Mosque, which is a remnant of the Hamitogullari.

Seljuk Schools/Theology- science-medical..
Besides mosques, the religious theology schools also played an important role. As the mosques first appeared in the Danishmendid and Artukid regions, so did the theological schools. They gradually developed from the middle of the twelfth century until the end of the fifteenth century, 15 examples of which have managed to survive in part or in whole to the present. These schools developed into two styles, domed and ante chambered and were based on a certain preplanned diagram.

The activities in these schools were not completely based on religion, but had various teaching facilities such as an observatory, a health clinic, etc. The surviving examples of the domed-type theology schools are as follows; The Gumustekin Bursa School (1136), the Ertokus School in Atabey Isparta (1224), the Turan Melik Health Clinic built by the Mengujeks (1228), the Konya Karatay School, which holds the finest examples of Seljuk porcelain tiles (1251), the Ince Minaret School in Konya, which was built by the Seljuk Vizier, Sahip Ata (1260), the Cay School (1270) and the Cacabey School in Kirsehir (1272).

The finest existing examples of the antechambered schools are the Hatuniye in Mardin (1185), the Zinciriye School in Diyarbakir (1198), and the Mesudiye School in Mardin (1198).

The earliest surviving Seljuk work is the Kayseri Cifte Minare School, constructed in 1205. This school was combined with the Nesibe Health Clinic to become a structure with four antechambers. The other Seljuk theology schools were the Sircali School in Konya (1217), the Tas (Stone) School that Sahip Ata had constructed in Aksehir (1250), the Huand School in Kayseri, the Seracettin School and the Sahibiye School.

The most advanced structure to have emerged from the Anatolian Seljuk School of architecture was the Gok (Blue) School in Sivas (1271), with its stone ornamentation, entry, facade, porcelain tiles and plan. Examples of existing structures that conveyed characteristics of the period are the Buruciye School in Sivas (1271), the Cifte Minaret School in Erzurum, of which only the facade remains, and the Gok School in Tokat (1270). The final works from the Seljuk Period are the Health Clinic in Amasya that was constructed in honor of Sultan Olcayto and his wife, Yildiz Hatun (1308), and the Yakutiye School in Erzurum that was constructed in honor of Sultan Olcayto and Bulgan Hatun (1310).

Caravanserai and Hans
Caravanserai, which took the name Sultanhan or Han in Anatolia, were constructed entirely of cut stone and were placed one day’s distance apart along the roads in which caravans passed. These structures which reached tremendous sizes, resembled palaces and reflected the great power that the Seljuk Sultans embodied over Anatolia.

The first of the Seljuk caravanserai was the Alay Han, which was constructed along the Aksaray-Kayseri road by Kilicarslan II in 1192. The Altinapa Han, which was constructed along the Konya Beysehir road in 1201 and the Angit Han, which was constructed along the Konya-Aksehir road in the same year were both built on orders of a Seljuk statesman, Semsettin Altinapa. Between the years 1214-18, Izzeddin Keykavus I had built the Evdir Han on the Antalya-Isparta road (the modern day Korkuteli Highway), the Tas Han on the Sivas-Malatya road (1218), and the Kadinhan along the Konya-Aksehir road (1223). The Sultan Han, which was constructed along the Konya-Aksaray road, was rather advanced for its day and proved to be a fine example for later caravanserai that were yet to be built. According to two existing inscriptions, it was built by Alaeddin Keykubad I in 1229. Alaeddin Keykubad was responsible for two other caravanserai, one of which had practically the same layout but on a smaller scale, and was constructed between 1232-36 along the Kayseri-Sivas road at the 50 km point. The other was constructed in 1232 along the Alara Stream near Alanya and was called the Alara Han.

The Seljuk Vizier Sadeddin Kopek started construction of the Zazadin Han, which is located along the Konya-Aksaray road at the 25 km point. Construction of this han was completed in 1237. One caravanserai that has survived completely intact to this day is the Agzikara Han, located on the Aksaray-Nevsehir road. Construction of this caravanserai began towards the end of Alaeddin Keykubad’s rule in 1231 by Hoca Mesud bin Abdullah and was completed in 1237 during the reign of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II.

In 1240, Emir Celaleddin Karatay had the Karatay Han built at the 50 km. point along the Kayseri-Malatya road. Like his father, Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II had three caravanserai built. The first one was built three km. outside the town of Egirdir (1237-38). The second, called the Incir Han, was constructed along the Isparta-Antalya road in 1238. The third and final one was named the Kirkgoz Han and was also built on the Isparta-Antalya road, 32 km outside Antalya. The Sarapsa Han along the Alanya-Antalya road was also constructed during the reign of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev. Construction of the Susuz Han, which can be found in a well-preserved state in the village of Susuz, was begun in the final year of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev’s rule.

The Horozlu Han was constructed during the rule of Izzeddin Keykavus II, who was the son of Giyaseddin Keyhusrev II in 1248. It is located along the Konya-Aksaray road and functions as a restaurant. Constructed in 1240 along the Nevsehir-Avanos road, the Sari Han was the last of the sultan caravanserai and has been restored to its former appearance.

Tombs, cuppolas
As a sign of respect for the dead, the tombs and cuppolas found throughout Anatolia show development in a unique architectural richness and creativity. These works, which had a square layout and were either domed, polygon or cylindrical shaped. At first, they were constructed from either brick or stone, whereas later they were built entirely from stone. There are no known tombs that date back to the Artukid. However, there do exist a few cupolas dating back to the 12th century. Today, there are six cupolas that are known to have been constructed by the Danishmenids.

Of the 12th century Seljuk cupolas, only that of Kilicarslan II remains to this day, and can be found next to the Alaeddin Mosque in Konya. According to inscriptions found on the Doner Cupola, in Kayseri, it was constructed in 1276 for Sah Cihan Hatun. Kayseri was known to be a major center regarding cupola architecture.

There are a total of eleven cupolas in the town of Ahlat, which is known to have the most cupolas and the greatest variety of tombstones after Kayseri.


*Sivas/ Great Mosque and Hospital of DIVRIGI
Date of Inscription to the World Heritage List: 6.12.1985
List Reference: 358 C
riteria: Cultural

*Seljuk Caravanserais on the route from Denizli to Dogubeyazit
Date of submission to the Tentative World Heritage List: 25/02/2000
List Reference: 1403 /Criteria: Cultural

*The Tombstones of Ahlat the Urartian and Ottoman Citadel
Date of submission to the Tentative World Heritage List: 25/02/2000
List Reference: 1401 Criteria: Cultural