Sivas offers one of the best collection of Seljuk architecture in Turkey (the other place is said to be Konya). And you don't have to go far from the city center to see most of these for most of the buildings are located in a park at the corner of Sivas' two main thoroughfares - Istasyon and Attaturk (not very original, is it?), opposite the Attaturk Congress and Ethnography Museum.
Situated in the park are the Cifte Minare Medrese (Seminary of the Twin Minarets), Sifaiye Medrese (a Medieval medical school built in 1217, making it one of the city's oldest buildings) and Buruciye Medresesi, named after the builder, Muzafer Burucerdi. True to their Seljuk roots, these buildings are characterized by their elaborate entrances and ''plain'' surrounding structure.
Aside from admiring these Seljuk pieces, Buruciye and Sifaiye have been converted to tea gardens where you could enjoy your cay in very atmospheric surroundings. There are souvenir shops, too, but I didn't pay much attention to them while I was sipping my tea with some newfound Turkish friends. Within the Sifaiye compound, you should also admire the elaborate tile work on the tomb of Izzettin Keykavus I, a Seljuk sultan who succumbed to TB in 1220. No worries, the virus should have been dead by now, so look closer at the beautiful Arabic inscriptions.
While Sivas offers lots of fine Seljuk and Ottoman pieces, you have to travel 176 kms to the sleepy town of Divrigi to discover Sivas'greatest treasure - the stunning Ulu Cami (Grand Mosque) and Darussifa (mental hospital) complex - Turkey's least visited World Heritage site.
Both built in 1228 by Divrigi's local emir, the adjoining buildings represent some of the boldest expressions of Seljuk architecture in all Turkey with their characteristic intricate stonework on the entrances contrasting sharply with the plain, box-like surrounding structures. The most intricate is found on the northern entrance of the Ulu Cami, which is hidden from the front entrance parking lot - so you have to walk around the complex to fully enjoy it.
It is also advisable to visit the complex during prayer times (particularly on Fridays) as both would be closed during other times, although you could try calling the numbers posted on the watchman's 'office' (small building to your left when you enter the complex).
Clearly, the place is off the tourist path and if you are lucky enough, you could be having the site all to yourself. If you come during prayer times, as I did, the locals would be all too happy to give you a tour of the place, all for free, of course.
Sultan Izzeddin Keykavus had this structure built in 1217. This is the oldest and the most extensive hospital of the Seljuks. Izzeddin Keykavus wrote in his will, that the wanted to be buried in Sivas, that the loved and in the hospital that he had built. When he died in 1220, he was buried in a chamber in the south wall.
lt was built in 1271 by the Seljuk Vezier Sahip Ata Fahreddin Ali. The entrance gate has very interesting brick works. The two minarets have blue tile work and that's where the name of the building comes from: Gök Medrese means Sky-blue Seminary. When we visited, we loved the tiles in the south and north chambers.
The gates to inside are generally locked but the custodiana are generally kind enough to open them for you when you ask. When you enter, on your right, there is a beautiful prayer room with a very nice dome.
Sivas Meydan Hamami (Turkish Bath) is one of the top 10 in Turkey. It was built in 1564 during the reign of Ottoman Sultan Murat III. It still functions today. Modern features are added as well in the past years: Now there is a reading room and a seperate resting room for men and women. It is open from 5am till midnight everyday.
Something you should really try at least once in a life time!
Surp Nishan (meaning "Holy Sign" or "Holy Cross") monastery was established by Atom-Ashot, the son of King Senekerim. The monastery was named after a celebrated relic that Senekerim had brought from Varagavank, and which was returned there after his death.
In 1915 Surp Nishan monastery was the main repository of medieval Armenian manuscripts in the Sebastia region and at least 283 manuscripts are recorded. The library was not destroyed during World War I and most of the manuscripts survived. In 1918 about 100 of them were transferred to the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem.
The monastery today is unfortunately entirely destroyed and a sprawling military base occupies the site. The date of the destruction is uncertain.
The monastery stood on a low hill overlooking Sivas and was surrounded by a plain and undefended outer wall. On one side of that enclosure wall, encircled by a wall of mud brick, was a large garden containing fruit trees and vegetable plots. Several farms were also attached to the monastery.
The monastery had three churches – their names were Surp Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God), Surp Khatch (Holy Cross), and Surp Hovhannes Karapet (Saint John the Precursor).
It is a pretty thelogical school of the Seljuks. It has an open courtyard surrounded by four chambers. Hibetullah Burucerdioglu Muzaffer, an important person during the reign of Sultan Giyaseddin Keyhusrev, had this Medrese built in 1271. The stone work of the main entrance gate and the tile of the mausoleum are of importance. Currently, there is a tea garden inside.
The name literally means the seminary of the twin minarets. It was built in 1271 by the Mongol-Ilhani Vezier Semseddin Mehmed Cuveyni as a school for the study of the traditions of the words and sayings of the prophet. Today only a section of the east wall remains standing. It was composed of a front facade, two minarets in the middle, an entrance gate, two windows on each (side and towers in each) corner.
This is the Ottoman school building that hosted the Sivas Congress on September 4, 1919. Today, it's a museum.
On the ground floor, you can see a variety of carpets and kilims. The wooden doors of the school are from Ulu Cami complex in Divrigi.
When you go upstairs, you can see the Congress Hall. It is presented as the way it was during the original congress meeting. You can see the photos of the delegates on the desks. Upstairs you can also see Atatürk's bedroom. Unfortunately most of the displays are only in Turkish.
Sitting like an Ottoman rose among Seljuk thorns - Cifte Minare, Sifaiye Medresesi and Buruciye Medresesi - is Kale Cami, a mosque designed along Ottoman lines and situated in the same park as the Seljuk masterpieces. Kale Cami was built in 1580 - centuries after the Seljuk buildings were built in the 1200s - by vizier Mahmut Pasa on orders of Sultan Murat III.
Aside from providing an interesting contrast in architectural style, Kale Cami heightens the parkgoers' experience, especially during prayer times when the muezzin sings out his prayer call.