Three Tombs Complex

Three tombs complex, Üç Kümbetler, Ezurum

Polina Ivanova

The Three Tombs (‘Üç Kümbetler’) complex is located about 300 metres to the south of Çifte Minare Medrese in central Erzurum. The complex in fact consists of four mausolea though the fourth one was left out of the toponym, being a smaller and simpler structure than the other three. Only one of the mausolea is known by the name of its founder, Emir Saltuk, while the other three are anonymous. According to old photographs there was once a cemetery around the mausolea, which now has been turned into a park.

None of the four buildings bear inscriptions. Emir Saltuk Türbesi is dated to the twelfth century based on its architectural style, as well a record in a 1591 Ottoman cadastral survey which attributes it to the Izeddin Saltuk, who ruled the Satukid principality between 1132 and 1168. The building has been well preserved, though the roof was replaced in 1956 and likely differs from the original (Hakkı Önkal suggests that the original roof was conical).

Emir Saltuk Türbesi is an octagonal stone structure with a cylindrical drum above it supporting the roof. Each of the eight sides of the building is topped with a pediment distinguished by its unusual decoration (alternating square blocks of light and red stone, as opposed to the darker red and grey stone used in the rest of the building). The building has two floors: the upper floor is accessible through a door placed in the northern wall, while the lower floor is reached from inside the building. The entrance portal, located at ground level, is framed by a stone arch and topped by a lintel and tympanum, both decorated with carved geometric motifs. The internal space is also octagonal, featuring eight small windows. At a height of 3.21 m on the exterior each side of the octagon has a double-arched window niche separated by a column, though only four of them (north above the entrance, south, east and west) have openings that let in light. The cylindrical drum also has small embrasure windows placed on the axes of the octagon joints and decorated with animal figures. The lower floor, which must have served as a crypt, has a small rectangular room, 5.4 x 4.26 m, topped with a barrel vault. It has no windows or openings apart from the entrance and at present contains no sarcophagus.

The second tomb, known as Anonymous I, is found to the southeast of Emir Saltuk’s mausoleum. The building is a dodecahedron placed on a high square foundation with a truncated pyramid top. A cylindrical drum connects the body of the building to its conical roof. A band with guilloche ornament in red stone runs along the surface of the drum just below the roof.  The building has two floors serving as a prayer hall and a crypt. The main western entrance is accessed at first-floor level: there must have been a staircase leading to it that does not survive. The niche above the door is decorated with five rows of muqarnas. The crypt is accessed through a small door at ground level on the north side of the building.

Since there is no inscription on the building, it is impossible to date it precisely: estimates in dating vary according to different scholars from the thirteenth to the first quarter of the fourteenth century.

The third tomb is structurally very similar to the one described above, though it does not have the same distinct high foundation. The fourth, on the other hand, is very different from all three. It is a small square, rather than polygonal, building measuring 3.22 x 3.22 m topped with a low pyramidal roof. Its upper section has a window, a simple mihrab and decorative shell reliefs in the upper corners below the ceiling. The crypt, which occupies its lower section, has no windows or decoration. The date and the patron of this türbe are unknown.

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