The Çifte Minaret Madrasa, built in the second half of the thirteenth century, has a colorful history not only as a theological school, but also as a gun foundry in the seventeenth century and as an arsenal and armory in the nineteenth century. More recently it has been used as a museum, which it continues to host today. It is the largest madrasa in Anatolia.
The construction of the school, also known as the Hatuniye Madrasa, has been alternately attributed to Hande Hatun, the daughter of Sultan Alaeddin Keykubad I (1220-1236), and to Padisha Hatun, the wife of Il Khanid Sultan Gaykhatu (1291-1295). The two attributions also suggest two different dates of construction: 1253 or 1290. Neither date is convincing, however, as it is more likely that the madrasa was completed before the demise of the Seljuk state in Erzurum in 1277, and after the Gök Madrasa in Sivas was built in 1271, a building which has been suggested as a model.
The madrasa is a two-storey, four-iwan building, thirty-five by forty-eight meters in plan. It is oriented along a north-south axis, with the main portal facing north. It extends beyond the south iwan (opposite the portal) to a 10-sided mausoleum. It was built up against what was once the eastern city wall.
The northern façade is dominated by the twin minarets that give the monument its name. The twenty-six meter tall brick minarets are each fluted with sixteen semicircles, the continuation of an architectural tradition with its origins in the Central Asian Qarakhanid dynasty. Each minaret sits on an octagonal base set atop a square pier. These piers frame the entryway and the monumental portal that projects (in plan) from the north wall. Each pier is carved in relief at the top and the base, with a main structure of plain-faced stone. The upper carving is a calligraphic medallion set in a square, with inscriptions naming Allah, the Prophet and the four Caliphs. The base is decorated in deep relief with a palm tree which springs from its roots of intertwined dragons and supports a double-headed eagle. The entire façade is similar to the Gök Madrasa in Sivas with carved floral motifs adorning the portal and a fountain to the left of the entrance.
Entering through the portal there is a small domed room to the west that was once a small masjid. The entrance hall opens through an iwan onto a courtyard twenty by thirty-six meters ringed on three sides by two-storey arcade. The fourth side, to the south, is composed entirely of a large iwan that leads into the mausoleum. The east and west sides each have a central iwan, with smaller rooms on either side. The doors to these rooms are carved and decorated with great variety. There are nineteen rooms on the first floor and eighteen on the second, all entered through the arcade. Only a few of the arcade column capitals are carved; it seems that this aspect of the madrasa was never completed.
The mausoleum to the south extends beyond the rectangular plan of the seminary, but sections of the wall that made it more clearly a part of the madrasa have collapsed. On the exterior, the mausoleum is decorated with tall blind arches defined by continuous molding. Every other face has two windows, a small one high up just below the arch, and a lower window decorated with muqarnas vaulting. A geometric band rings the entire tomb below the cornice. The conical roof is divided into segments and is decorated with arches in low relief. It is supported by a cornice of muqarnas decoration. The tomb's builder is unknown, and its decoration, like that of the madrasa, is unfinished.
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