The civilised Seljuks

A new museum of Seljuk civilisation is to open in the 13th-century Çifte Medrese in Kayseri

By Victoria Khroundina | May 29, 2013

The Gevher Nesibe Medrese, the oldest medrese in Kayseri and arguably the first hospital in Anatolia, is to be turned into museum devoted to the Seljuks/Selçuks of Rum, the Turkish empire that ruled medieval Anatolia before the rise of the Ottomans.

The medrese is part of a complex known as the Çifte Medrese  – the Twin Medrese. One builduing, constructed by Sultan Keyhüsrev I, who ruled from Konya between 1192 and 1196 and 1205 and1211, served as a medical school, the other, by his sister, Gevher Nesibe Sultan, as a hospital.

The story is a romantic one. Keyhüsrev and Gevher Nesibe Sultan were the children of the powerful Sultan Kiliç Arslan (1156–92). Gevher Nesibe fell in love with one of her brother's horsemen, a match he diisapproved of, ordering the young man into battle, where he was killed. The grief proved too much for his sister who fell ill. As she lay dying, she asked that her brother, by now full of remorse, should build this hospital.

As the mayor of Kayseri, Mehmet Özhaseki, laments, the province of Kayseri dates back to the days of the Seljuk Empire, yet can visitors find out anything this important medieval civilisation.

The hospital was completed from between 1204 and 1206, and the medrese next door was finished soon afterwards – the tall octagonal tomb inside the medrese almost certainly belongs to the princess. When the buildings were restored in 1968, the hospital continued to be used as the administrative centre of a medical school. The new museum will include an arts centre, an archaeological wing and a performance area.

Turkey is rich in examples of Seljukid architecture. Particularly important centres were Alanya, Afyon, Miletus, Konya and Aksaray.  Seljuk influence also extended across the Black Sea to Crimea, Cornucopia 49 features the domed mosque built by Keykubad II in 1226 in the well-preserved fortress of Sudak.

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