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Hoşap Castle (Turkish: Hoşap kalesi, Kurdish: Kela Xoşabê), official name Güzelsu Van, is a large medieval castle in the village of Hoşap, located in Gürpınar District, Van Province, Eastern Anatolia, Turkey. Most of the surviving structure was built by the local Ottoman-Kurdish governor Sarı Süleyman Bey in 1643. Hoşap means "beautiful water" in Kurdish and "Güzelsu" has the same meaning in Turkish.
The former town of Hoşap lay on the flat ground north of the castle rock and in the enclosed space on the opposite side of the castle from the road; the present village extends into this space. The town was defended at one corner by the castle and elsewhere by a wall, which originally started from the ends of the castle’s two cliffs. Built of mud, and toothed with the remains of mud battlements, the wall of the early Ottoman period can still be seen in stretches.
On the north of the former town it now starts from a point beyond but the line of the cliff, near the Van road and extends along a natural ridge eastwards. From the castle’s southerly cliff the wall crosses the low saddle to the north-east. The two walls meet at the summit of the next hill, in order to keep control of all the land commanding the town. Beyond this hill’s summit stretches a seemingly empty expanse of low, spreading hills.
The castle’s rock rises on its south-west side in a high vertical cliff above the village and road (Pls. 34, 35). A single wall runs above this cliff and above the cliff descending on the south-east from the south, the highest, corner. The easier ground spreading downwards in the angle between the two walls is defended by three separate lines of wall. The inner of these is really part of a short of oval keep which crowns the southerly end of the south-west side of the rock. From the village one walks over a three-arched bridge built in courses of black and white stone, apart from the balustrades and a few courses to right and left of the two outer arches. From the smaller width and height of the two end arches one might have expected a humped roadway; but in fact a level. The greater frequency of black courses between the arches and the lower height of the uppermost black course on the east side (by the castle) may be an attempt at a suggestion of a humped roadway. The bridge’s style belongs with that of some Ottoman buildings in the district and in Upper Mesopotamia, and it was built by a Kurdish emir of Hoşap, Zaynal Bey, in 1671.
The way leads, over the north-west extension of the castle rock, round the castle, to the bulky entrance tower on the north-east, whose door looks north along the wall. Above the door here are two lions either side of a tear-drop, and, below, an inscription panel inside a frame of partly honeycomb pattern (Pl. 37). The inscription shows that the entrance tower was built, probably with several other parts of the castle, by an emir of Hoşap, Süleyman, in 1649. Two blind arches, one inside the other, enclose both the black-and-white frame surrounding these and the door below.
One goes through a dark entrance chamber, turning two right-angles, and climbs up a long covered way. The path then doubles back in order to go through the gate in the middle wall. Above again stands the keep, whose shape is managed by means of a series of straight stretches of wall. Its most rounded end is towards the north. The whole of the interior looks to have been covered by a roof on wooden rafters. Many of the inner wall surfaces have kept their plaster. Two very slim semi-circular towers stand in the wall overlooking the village. The southerly of these turns out to resemble, on the inside, a dovecot, but the holes are apparently for watching the road. Between the two round towers is a solid tower projecting inwards only. There are some remains of buildings (a mosque, hamam, store and others) below the keep on the side overlooking the village (south-west). After the last emir was expelled the castle was used to quarter a military detachment until at least the late 19th century and the commandant was housed in the keep.
The floor of its upper storey was just below a series of triangular niches which project outside. In these niches are small slits for rifles and slam holes in the floor (machicolation). The crenellations above could not have been used except to confuse an enemy, as firing would have required one’s feet to be half-way up one of the embrasure-niches. There are then three storeys below these, the one immediately below having, at the nw., two levels of windows. The s. half of the keep’s e. side is rebuilt. Small, neat, originally well-fitted blocks were used (lower level only) on the outside: the rest of the keep is built of crudely hacked blocks of similar size.
The easterly stretch, facing away from the road, has relatively small towers, and the layout, bur probably not the present masonry, may well be that of a medieval Armenian original. Continuing w. of the gate, a now cut-off section of former wall survives above a section of deep ditch. Beyond again the wall’s masonry changes height and four broad semi-circular towers (that at the e. corner (Pl. 36) is a ¾ circle) place it in Ottoman period. Again embrasures and small slits (but no machicolation) for rifles. The same two types of masonry as before are represented. The cruder type predominates, but much of the wall between the entrance tower and the nw.-facing tower at the n. corner is of the neater sort.
Stages of construction
The Armenian original may have had only two walls, one on the site of the keep and one on the line of the intermediate wall. In the first reconstruction of the Ottoman period (in 1649: crude masonry, except for entrance tower) the outer wall was built or possibly rebuilt: the keep certainly, and the intermediate wall probably, were rebuilt. A repair followed (perhaps after 1650) in the neatest stone, including part of the outer curtain n. of the entrance-tower and a small expanse in the keep. (1978 *)
- Castle Sevgen, AK.I.137-46; Goodwin 188. Hist.: Evliya, Üçdaş ed., IV.1297-8; Arakel of Tabriz, tr. Brosset, 502, 510-14.
- Hovhannesean, Castles 304-6 (17th & 18th century); Jaubert, Voyage 362-3; Layard, Nineveh and Babylon 385, 386-7 (desc.).
- Berkian, Thesis 159-61. Bridge. Çulpan, Taş Köprüler 175-6; Goodwin 188 & fıg. 181. (Thesis on munumentsmentioned SanTarYıl 3(1969-70), 270).
- Sinclair, T.A. (1987). Eastern Turkey: An Architectural and Archeological Survey. London: The Pindar Press. p.212-215.