The inscription on the entrance of the Karatay Madrasa says; knowing how to ask is half of the wisdom. This is proof of the importance given to Science and Knowledge by the Seljukians. The Mongols created a domino effect and pushed millions of people from the Centre of Asia and Khorasan to Anatolia. Among the Turkish nomads, there were many respected scholars. Seljukians invited many of them to its capital city Konya to establish a city of information and education like Samarkand or Bukhara. The emperors, politicians, public, and notables of the society financed many education facilities in Konya and the important cities of the empire. Especially the cities on the trading routes like the Silk and the Spice Road flourished during the 12th and 13th Centuries. KAratay Madrasa stands as a unique structure among them thanks to the beautiful tiles decorating the domes, peerless artifacts found in the excavations made in the Seljukian Palace by the Lake Beysehir nearby Konya city. Built-in 1251 by the Grand Vizier Celaleddin Karatay during the reign of Sultan II Kaykaus, Karatay Madrasa was used as a theological school until the end of the 19th Century. The structure was converted into a museum in 1955 and maintained in 2006 by the Culture and Tourism Ministry of the Republic of Turkey.
Where is Karatay Madrasa?
Karatay Madrasa is in Konya city. Konya and its enormous flat plains are considered the breadbasket of the Republic of Turkey. Konya is almost located in the middle of our country and only 3 hours away from Cappadocia. There are many direct flights from Istanbul to Konya every day. Besides, Konya is accessible by a speed train from Ankara in only two hours. Many travelers self-driving in Turkey should spare a night in Konya to take a break on the way from Cappadocia to the West Coast or Mediterranean region. By booking a hotel in the center of Konya, one can easily explore the beautiful Seljukian monuments of Konya city. Karatay Madrasa is very close to Alaaddin Hill which is located in the opposite direction of Dervish Lodge of Mevlana. You can take a taxi from any central hotel in Konya and start your Konya tour from Karatay Madrasa on foot. The Alaaddin Hill, Alaaddin Mosque, Ince Minare Madrasa are all located on and around Alaaddin Hill. A 10-minute walk from Alaaddin Hill will bring you to the Museum of Mevlana and you will be able to accomplish a memorable Konya city tour. Thanks to the parking facilities of Karatay Madrasa and Mevlana Museum, one should start the city tour from one or the other. Karatay Madrasa is located only 1,2 kilometers away from the Mevlana Museum and it takes 15 minutes to walk from the museum to the madrasa.
What to see in Karatay Madrasa?
Karatay Madrasa itself is a great example of Seljukian architecture. The architect showed great humility not to sign this masterpiece which is very common in Seljukian architecture. We know that Celaleddin Karatay financed the project and even if he passed away in Kayseri city, his body was transported to Karatay Madrasa and buried underneath one of the four small domes of Karatay Madrasa. Madrasas of Seljukians and Ottomans were planned with an inner court which usually open for classes of Astronomy. Karatay Madrasas central court is closed by a huge dome which must be because of the harsh winter conditions of Konya. There is a pool in the center and the water was brought by terra cotta pipes which are seen underneath the glass put during the renovations held in 2006. The dome and the western barrel vault are full of phenomenal blue tiles. Besides the original tiles of the Karatay Madrasa, the artifacts found in the Kubadabad Palace in Beysehir city of Konya are exhibited inside the museum today.
Who is Celaleddin Karatay?
Celaleddin Karatay was a notable statesman of the Anatolian Seljuks. While there are many historians claiming that he had Turkish Origins, he entered politics after his education in the Gulamhane of the Anatolian Seljuks. Gulamhane is a school primarily for the slaves thought and trained to be guards or officials to the palace. Gulam stands for a little boy in the Arabic language. He was most probably enslaved in between the Cilicia or Cappadocia regions of Anatolia during the Armenian Campaign of I Kaykhusraw. After his education, he became a scribe of the council, head of the housekeeping of the Sultan, and the accountant of the Sultans personal wealth. He remained as the assignee of the Seljukian Sultan in his absence from the palace and remained the accountant of the Sultan until he passed away in Kayseri city. Along with Karatay Madrasa, he financed many structures in the Anatolian Seljukian lands.
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