This is the medrese part of the Hunat Hatun Külliyesi: the usual complex of mosque, medrese and mausoleum. It was founded in 1235-38 by the Seljuk sultan Alaeddin Kaykobad's favorite Mahperi.
This Hunat Medresesi (Hunat Higher Kuran school) housed the Kayseri Archeologic Museum from 1930 to 1969. Then it was the Etnographic Museum, until 1998. After functioning as a ‘çarşı’ (shopping center) for a few years, it has become the ‘Hunat Medresesi Kültür ve Sanat Merkezi’ (Culture and Arts Center) in 2013.
The medrese has its entrance to the West. Passing through the vestibule, one enters the open inner courtyard, which has galleries on the left and on the right. Behind them lie 16 small rooms (8 on each side) where the resident students lived. Facing the entrance, a large iwan closes the yard; here lessons were given in summertime. For winter, there was another (closed) room of the same size, to the left of the iwan.
An iwan (Persian & Turkish: ‘eyvān’) is a rectangular hall or space, usually vaulted, walled on three sides, with one end entirely open. This architectural form can be used for entrances, but also (as it is the case here) to create half open rooms looking out at a central yard. The iwan as used in Anatolian Seljuk ‘medrese’ was imported from Islamic Persia, but was invented much earlier and fully developed in Mesopotamia.
Correspondent: J.M.Criel, Antwerpen
Sources: ‘Kayseri Kültür Varlıkları Envanteri’ (Kayseri Belediyesi 2008)
& ‘Guides Bleus: Turquie’ – Edition 1986.