The Castles of Hadjin
At an altitude of 1,300 m, the village
of Saimbeyli (Armenian: Hacen) straddles the
strategic road that links Feke to Kayseri and the
Cappadocian plain. Saimbeyli is built along
the slopes of two adjoining valleys (pl. 185b). A
natural spur of rock provides a majestic foundation for
the fort which is located at the extreme southern end of
the outcrop (pl. 185a). This V-shaped spur is at
the junction of two major tributaries. The Obruk
Çay, which cuts the route for the north-south road, is
on the west flank of the fort. Today most of the
modern village of Saimbeylioverlooks the Obruk Çay.
From the east the Kirkot Çay flows through a steep
valley and merges with the Obruk Çay directly south of
the fortified outcrop (pl. 185b). Before 1920 the
valley of the Kirkot Çay held a substantial portion of
the Armenian settlement.
Although Saimbeyli (Hacen) is
mentioned frequently in studies on Armenian Cilicia and
is the subject of an 857-page monograph, we have no
documented information on the foundation of the medieval
fort or the nearby monastery of St. James. Because of its isolation, Hacen
did not play a prominent role in the politics of the
Armenian kingdom. The fortification and garrison
were placed here because of the proximity to a major
road. After the fall of the Armenian kingdom, the
importance and size of Hacen increased dramatically.
In the second half of the nineteenth century the Armenian
population numbered over twelve thousand. Aside from the monastery of St.
James, which is at the far northwest end of Saimbeyli,
fragments of the Armenian settlement can be seen in the
Kirkot valley and along the top of the outcrop.
There is a relatively easy
approach to the fort at the southwest end of the outcrop
(pl. 185a). The trail zigzags past the south wall
of a two-story brick and concrete structure, which was
dedicated in 1912, and turns to the north. Because
the height of the natural cliff diminishes at the
northwest end of the fort, the medieval masons scarped a
vertical face to continue the rock barrier and limit the
line of access. The modern trail follows the base
of the cliff and abruptly ascends to the terrace
northwest of towers A and B (fig. 62; pl. 186a).
The masonry of Saimbeyli Kalesi is
entirely in keeping with the architectural traditions of
Armenian Cilicia. The vast majority of the exterior
facing stones consist of type VII masonry. In some
cases the consistently rusticated face of type V is
evident. It is also quite interesting that in some
of the courses the margins of the type VII have been
stuccoed with white mortar and studded with small dark
stones. Such a technique normally occurs with the
poorer quality rusticated stones of type VI masonry,
where its wider margins give the exterior stucco a firm
anchorage. The attempt to stucco the relatively
thin margins of the type VII may have been done for
aesthetic effect. On the interior of the fort there
are a number of types of facing stones. At the
extreme south in salient E type III facing stone is
common; it occurs again along the west wall of F. Type
IV is also present in room D (pl. 186b). In the
wall north of chapel C the interior facing improves
decidedly, for in this area types V and VII seem to
predominate. This is also true for the lower half
of the north circuit (flanking A and B). But the
upper half was refaced at a much later date (fifteenth
century?) This post-medieval masonry (pl.
188a) consists of recycled blocks and fieldstones bound
in a thick matrix of mortar and covered with plaster.
This crude masonry is also anchored by horizontal wooden
headers in the core (pl. 188b). The square area
marked as H on my plan stands today only to its
foundation. What survives is an extremely crude
masonry of fieldstones bound in irregular courses by rock
chips and small traces of mortar. The walls of H,
which probably are the foundation of a post-medieval
church, have a poured core.
This fort consists of a high
fortified circuit wall that cuts off and surrounds the
tapering end of the spur (fig. 72). There is no
evidence of outworks or ditches preceding the north wall.
This wall runs from one side of the cliff to the other.
This barrier was joined at the east (pl. 187a) by a wall
of equal height that extended from the tower-chapel C.
The upper portion of this east wall has now collapsed.
On the other side it appears that the original west wall,
which connected with tower G, was only about 60 percent
of the height of the north wall. At the northwest
junction the upper section has been squared off, clearly
showing the reduced height of the west wall (pl. 188a).
The west wall, like the one at the east, rises directly
from the cliffs.
The north wall was opened by a
single gate in the center that was flanked by two
horseshoe-shaped towers (pl. 186a). Today, in the
area where the gate once stood, there is merely a large
hole in the circuit. In the lower level of tower A
(not shown on the plan) the wall is well preserved on the
exterior, except for a puncture at the east. Only a
section of the upper level of tower B still has facing
stones in site. Each tower has a single apsidal
chamber at the first and second levels. In the
lower level tower A was probably opened by a single door
at the south. It is unlikely that the breach in the
towers east side held a postern or window. As
in tower B, only the walls in the lower-level chamber of
A have been stuccoed and painted (pl. 188b). The
same stucco was applied to the inner face of the north
wall of H. The second level of tower A is opened by
two embrasured loopholes. The one at the north is
undamaged and has a small stirrup base. Because of
damage to the upper level of A, only the inner side of
the east embrasure is visible today.
The difficulty with the upper
level of A, and likewise with the same area in tower B,
is to determine the means of access. In neither of
the upper-level rooms is there evidence of a door at the
south. In tower A only a small portion of the open
south end (in the west corner) appears to have been
walled. This fragment of wall, as well as the
squared top of tower A, probably dates from the fifteenth
century when this tower became the base of a square
campanile. In medieval times ramparts
probably topped both of the towers. Because the
inner face of the north wall of the fort is so heavily
reconstructed, we can only assume that a crenellated
staircase once gave access to the ramparts and second
level (cf. Yilan and Tamrut). There is the
possibility that wooden structures were built directly
onto the interior of the north wall in medieval times.
The presence of joist holes in the refaced areas
indicates that wooden beams were used in the fifteenth
Tower B is quite similar to A at
the lower level, except the former has a straight-sided
window with a miniature casemate on the interior (this
opening is depicted on the plan between the two
upper-level embrasures). This opening could provide
only a small amount of light and ventilation. Both
of the embrasured loopholes in the upper level of B are
damaged. At the south end of the second level the
masonry in the vault consists of long crude slabs laid
radially. Toward the north end of this room the
apsidal ceiling is constructed with a large type V
masonry. This is quite different from the masonry
in the upper level of tower A (pl. 188b), where more
crude stones in a thick matrix of mortar are common at
the north. This difference in masonry types is
certainly due to several periods of construction.
What is left of chapel C conforms
to the design characteristics of Armenian ecclesiastical
architecture in Cilicia (pl. 187a).
South of the chapel there are two
adjoining rectangular chambers. Only the foundation
of room D is visible today (pl. 186b); its function
unknown. Directly to the west is the vaulted
cistern F. Except for a small section at the east,
the vault is well preserved (pl. 187b). It is
stuccoed like the interior walls and is opened by a
single square hatch. The only other evidence of an
opening in the cistern is a small round-headed window at
the top of the west wall. Although much of the
masonry of cistern F is fairly crude, the exterior of its
west end is constructed with type VII masonry, since it
extends into the space of what should be the circuit.
At the far south, a fingerlike projection of rock is
surrounded by a single wall, forming the rounded bastion
E. The function of a thin ledge on the interior of
the circuit is unknown. At the north end of E and
just south of room D are the remains of some scarped
graves (pl. 186b). These tombs probably date to the
fifteenth century, when the fort was converted into a
cloister. Tower G, which is badly damaged today, appears
to have been a solid bastion (pl. 185a). Only a few
fragments of the circuit connecting G to the north wall
are visible today.
 Edwards, Second Report, 130 f.
Hadjin Turkey Home
Last revised: December 17, 2006.