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Archery was an activity was popular from the time it appeared on the historical scene in many different countries, and had a special importance not only for its role in hunting, but also as a military sport. In particular, Turkey has had a close relationship with this sport for many centuries. The military drills in archery, both in times of war and in peace, took on the nature of contests. Keeping in mind the very important role that the archers played in the victory at Malazgirt, from the first years that the Ottoman State started to expand, archery was given a special importance and in Bursa, in the reign of Sultan Orhan, an archery training field was set up. It is said that a similar training ground was built in Gallipoli during the reign of Yıldırım Bayezid.

In the past, the word tekke was used not only for the places in which dervishes would gather; it was also used to indicate areas that were used for certain sports. In Istanbul there are two tekke buildings that have this characteristic. The first is the Okmeydanı Kemankeşler [Archer’s] Tekke and the other is the Unkapanı Pehlivanlar Tekke, of which no trace remains today. The Okmeydanı Tekke would be opened every day on the Day of Hıdrellez, that is, the 6th of May and for the following six months archery training exercises would be carried out here every Monday and Thursday. As well as archery drills, there was pole jumping over trenches and sword fights, while competitive games like jirit, tomak and matrak would be carried out in this area. Okmeydanı Tekke, in on sense, was a sports club that continued the Ahi tradition. It was only possible for an archer to be accepted into Okmeydanı or to be expelled from the area on the permission of the sheikh of the tekke.

Although there is some information that during Fatih Sultan Mehmet’s preparations for the conquest of Constantinople a military headquarters was established and the ships that were to be lowered into the Golden Horn were built here, the name Okmeydanı does not occur during the Fatih era. Witnesses to the conguest, like Tursun Bey, Barbaro, Ducas, Francis or Kritovulos provide no information on this matter. Much later, in the Müneccimbaşı History, it is thought that an important military headquarters was established here or in the vicinity, and that auxiliary forces were stationed here.
It is claimed that a great victory celebration, led by Akşemsettin, was held in Okmeydanı after the conquest. Some sources mention that the spoils of war were distributed in the military headquarters established here. Although some say that this is the reason for Sultan Mehmet II having a masjid established here, evidence of such a structure has yet to be found. In the plan of Istanbul depicted by Matrakçı Nasuh, dated 1537, a structure can be seen in this region; however, it appears more like a civilian building than a religious structure [See: Picture 1]. The words Okmeydanı / Mehdan-ı Tîr or Dergâhı Tîrendâzân cannot be found in the vakfiye [foundation deeds] belonging to Sultan Mehmet II. It is known that Sultan Bayezıd II had Okmeydanı registered in the name of his father’s waqf.

After the Fatih era, particulary in the era of Bayezıd II, it is known that the city was quickly transformed into a Turkish city and many ıslamic tarigah were brought to the city. Bayezıd II was referred to as Bayezıd-ı Veli [Saint Beyezıd] in some sources in commemoration of these efforts. In parallel with these activities, it is likely Beyazid II had the Okmeydanı Tekke built towards the and of the 15th century or at the beginning of the era of Beyazid II there was a covered location in this square known as the Sorkun [Sivrikoz] Çardağı and that the Bosnian governor, Vizier İskender Pasha, had this structure torn down; overcome with sorrow at what he had done, the pasha had a masjid and the tekke building erected here. This structure, the Kasr-ı Hümâyûn or Şeyh Odası, consisted of buildings like a masjid, kitchens, and a barn, as we can see in the miniature by Matrakçı Nasuh. The fact that the well brace, which is still extand today [see: Picture 1:37] complies with our observations demonstrates how accurately he acted. Even though there is talk that this building, erected in the era of Sultan Bayezid II, which functioned as a sports center or a masjid had a minared added to it in 1518, no such an activity in the list of Snan’s structures.

These structures, which fell into ruins over time, were repaired by Gürcü Mehmed Pasha in 1034 H./1624-1625 and by adding a pulpit, the masjid was renovated once again, as can be seen in the album called Surname-i Vehbi, dated 1720; finally, dated 1184 H./1770-1771, a minaret was added by Ebubekir Agha. It can be understood that until the third quarter of the 18th century, like many neighborhood masjids, the Okçular Tekke Masjid had no minaret. The Okçular Tekke Masjid had no minaret. The Okçular Tekke was fundamentally renovated one more time by Sultan Mahmud Iıin 1234 H./1818-1819. We can see this in a drawing made during this era by Carl Gustaf Lövenheimin his albüm dated 1820. [see: Picture 6] A structure, which was rectangular in shape and surrounded by a high wall in front of a wide courtyard, consisted of two floors and two structures; this most likely corresponds to the tekke and the sheik’s room. Behind this we can see minaret, with one balcony that is long and thin with a lead roof. To the north, directly behind the courtyard wall, there is a single-story structure. On of the courtyards is under the sheikh’s room, while the other is more to the right, and has there entrances. The surroundings of the structure are empty and under the large cypress tree that is located towards the north it is possible to see some gravestones. It is claimed that this cemetery belongs to Kukacı Dede and important archers. The aforementioned drawing gives an idea about the character of the structure and the original lead cap to the minaret; in the three phtographs that were taken of the building at later dates, the minaret, which happened to many mosques and majids in the 1890s, was also implemented to the Okçular Tekke.

The only photograph in which the Sheikh’s Room and part of the other structures can be seen is that taken by the architect Hikmet [Koyunoğlu], There are similarities between this photograph and Lövenheim’s drawing. However, rather than there being an arch made of two different colors of stone over the opening of the entrance as seen in Löwenheim’s drawing, in this phtograph there is a wide door frame and a flat traverse. Another photograph dated 1930, shows the other stone structure that is locted in the southeast corner. At the date at whch this phtograph was taken, the Sheikh’s Room and its annexes must have been burned down or destroyed, as we can see the stone water tank [vault] behind the structure under the Sheikh’s Room. The Empire style stone cap can be seen in this picture rather than the thin, elegant lead cap in.

A three-dimensional restitution plan of the Okçular Tekke was made by Keramet and Metin Niğar [See: Picture 8]. However, there is important difference in the Sheikh’s Room from the photograph taken by the architect Hikmet. For this reason, we are of the opinion that it would be useful to prepare another trial in the light of the documents to hand.

Starting from the 1950s Okmeydanı and the immediate vicinity experienced a rapid invasion from builders of shanty-towns. During this period, it is known that in particular the stone sections of the tekke which are still standing today were torn down and used to build shanties. In 2005 the shanties in the tekke and surrounding areas were torn down and one section was taken under protection. It is necessary that excatvations in the light of written documents and drawings be carried out as soon as possible in order to identify the remains of the structure, and to rebuild the Okmeydanı Tekke, bringing this important sports area for İstanbul back to life. During this process it is necessaray that the Okmeydanı Namazgahı, which was located immediately next to the tekke, the hall of which is covered in rubble, with the banisters and inscription on the entrance having been lost, be repaired and brought back to life.

As can be seen, Okmeydanı is an important sports area that has a history stretching back more than 500 years. Today, the tekke is important not only from the organization of the near environment, but also has an important function for the region. Research should be carried out, and the subject should be investigated in a way that reminds us of the past, so that we can gain back a five-hundred year old sports arena for our country, costruck a modern archery range in the near environment, and the tekke should be organized as an archery museum.