The Complex of Elvan Çelebi: Problems in 
Fourteenth-Century Architecture

In: Muqarnas Online
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The fourteenth-century complex of Elvan Çelebi is often cited as an example of the survival of local Christian saints’ cults in later medieval Anatolia. The reuse of Byzan­tine materials in the complex’s buildings and the stories told by its sixteenth-century residents about the exploits of Khidr have been used to argue that the local cult of St. Theodore of Euchaita was maintained by Muslims. Furthermore, portions of the complex have been identified as the remnants of a Christian church. However, there is no evidence that the complex incorporates parts of, or was built on the site of, an earlier Byzantine structure. The most prominent displays of reused material date to the later sixteenth century, and the der­vishes’ stories are best understood as an example of the widespread Anatolian identification of Khidr with St. George. However, the complex still has much to tell us about the patronage of architecture by family networks in the absence of state intervention in fourteenth-century Anatolia. Local stories according to which the spolia in the building were donated by Elvan Çelebi’s father are more telling indicators of the complex’s significance than speculations about the survival of cult.

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