Gevher Nesibe was an early-13th-century princess of the Sultanate of Rum, the daughter of Kilij Arslan II and sister of Kaykhusraw I, and the namesake of a magnificent complex comprising a hospital, an adjoining medrese devoted primarily to medical studies, and a mosque in Kayseri, Turkey. The complex (külliye in Turkish) that she endowed is considered one of the pre-eminent monuments of Seljuk architecture.
The hospital was built between 1204 and 1206, and the medrese, whose construction started immediately after Gevher Nesibe's death in 1206, was finished in 1210.
The complex as a whole takes its name from the princess. The medrese within is known under a variety of names: the Gevher Nesibe Medrese; the Çifte Medrese (Twin Medrese); or as the Gıyasiye Medrese, after Ghiyath al-Din Kaykhusraw I, who was responsible for its construction. The tomb within the medrese is said to belong to Gevher Nesibe.
Legends and the legacy
According to legend, Gevher Nesibe fell in love with a cavalry officer defending the palace of the Seljuk sultan at Konya. Her brother Kaykhusraw I opposed a marriage between his sister and an officer and sent the young man on a variety of dangerous assignments and campaigns, during the last of which he died.
Overcome with grief at her lover's death, Gevher Nesibe Sultan fell ill with tuberculosis. The remorseful Kaykhusraw visited her on her deathbed, asked her forgiveness and offered to fulfill any last wish she had. Gevher Nesibe Sultan is reported to have replied: "I am very ill. There is no way for me to recover. None of these doctors can deliver me from my illness. I will eventually pass away. My wish is that you use my property to build a hospital in my honor. In this hospital, sick people should be treated with no charge and at the same time, incurable illnesses researched."
Historical record shows that Kaykhusraw carried out his sister's last wish, beginning the hospital in Kayseri in 1204. The buildings were designed and built by an architect named Üstad Ömer. The entryway inscription, a common feature of Islamic architecture that usually records the architect's name, is missing, but the information is preserved in written sources elsewhere. The institution was reportedly the first hospital in the world that treated patients with mental disorders. The complex as a whole represents the earliest surviving Seljuk medrese and hospital in Anatolia.
- Information: "History of Gevher Nesibe Hospital". Erciyes University.
- İbrahim Shaikh. (full text and photos) "A visit to Gevher Nesibe Medical Museum in Kayseri in Anatolia, Turkey" (PDF). The International Society for the History of Islamic Medicine.
- Fact sheet: "Çifte Medrese (Twin Medrese) Kayseri, Turkey". Museum of Architecture.
- Gevher Nesibe: "A detailed web site prepared by Kayseri's Erciyes University" (in Turkish). Erciyes University.
- Dick Osseman. Photographs: "Kayseri including the Seljuk hospital".
- Bilgitay Study Group. Gevher Nesibe Nanomedicine Project: "Gevher Nesibe Nanomedicine Project page, also includes photographs and detailed explanation on the medrese and Seljukian medicine" (in Turkish).