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We have brought back to life a 500 year old sport embedded in the history of our country...


Archery has a special place in the history of many nations both as a tool for hunting and as a sport. Our nation has practiced this sport for centuries. Archery drills and contests were very popular within the army. Many crucial Ottoman victories like the battle of Mazikert and much of the Empire’s expansion owes its dues to archery. Sultan Orhan set up the first archery range in Bursa. Later we hear the same was done by Sultan Bayezid near Gallipoli.


It the past, the word Tekke was not only used for meeting places of religiosu orders, but also for the training ranges used by military sports. Two such places were known in Istanbul: The Okmeydanı Okçular [archery] lodge and the now defunct Unkapanı wrestlers range. Every year on the 6th of May the Okmeydanı Tekke would open for six months and offer training on Mondays and Thursdays. Aside from archery drills, other competitions like pole jumping, swords fighting, javelin throws, and traditional funny games like tomak also took place here. The Okmeydanı Tekke then functioned more as a sort of sports club. An archer could only be accepted or dismissed from the club by the Sheikh in charge of the archery range.


Although there are rumors that Fatih Sultan Mehmed II builts his ships for the conquest of the city, the name of Okmeydanı does not appear in his period. Seweral of the witnesses of the conquest like Tursun Bey, Barbaro, Ducas, Francis or Kritovulos do not tell us anything of the sort. This story first appears in the writings of the Chief Ottoman Astronomer, however many researchers discredit it. Despite this, it is a widely accepted notion that the army that conquered the city did ancamp in the vicinty of today’s Okmeydanı.


It is said that the victory celebrations of the conquest was celebrated under the leadership of Akşemsettin in Okmeydanı. Others maintain the spoils of war were distributed amongst the troops here. A mosque was said to be built byMehmet the Conqueror here, but no such structure has been found. Matrakçı Nasuh’s plan, dating from 1537, shows a structure in this region but it resembşes a public building rather than a mosque.


None of the documents during the era of Fatih Sultan Mehmed mention Okmeydanı. The area is first registered on behalf of the foundation run by Sultan Beyazid II’s father.


After the era of Fatih the Conqueror, especially during the reign of Bayezid II, many Islamic religios orders were welcomed into the city. The Okmeydanı Tekke was probably built in this period towards the end of the 15th or beginning of the 16th century.


Some sources maintain that during the reign of Sultan Bayezid II, there used to be a building here, erected and demolished by the Governor of Bosnia, Iskender Paşa. It is said that he so regretted the destruction of this building that he subsequently build a tekke in its place. Most likely this id the building that appears in Matrakçı Nasuh’s miniatures. The well curb that has survived to this day bears witness to the accuracy of Matrakçı’s observations and designs.


Even though it’s claimed that the sports complex also contained a small mosque with a minaret built around 1518, Matrakçı’s drawings contain no such detail. Some say part of this structure was built by Mimar Sinan but there’s no record of such activity in Sinan’s building lists.


In time, these structures were restored by the Georgian Mehmed Pasha in 1625. After adding a mimbar to the small mosque, he transformed the area into a barracks. The buildings were restored during the reign of Sultan Ahmed III in 1720, and one last minaret was added by Ebubekir Ağa in 1771. Apparently, like many other small mosques in the vicinity, the mosque in the complex did not have a minaret until the last quarter of the 18th century. A final repair occurred in 1819 during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II. There is a drawing of the complex in Carl Gustaf Löwenheim’s 1820 album.


There is a large rectangular courtyard surrounded by a high wall in front of a two story building that contained the main lodge and the sheikh room. At the backside one can see a single, slender minaret. On the North side, behind the atrium wall, is a single story structure with three entrances. A few gravestones can be seen under the large cypress tree right next to it. It is claimed that the graves of important archers like Kukacı Dede lie here. The original minaret balconies were made out of lead and eventually changed to stone, as we can tell from three phtographs taken on a later date. Apparently the small mosque of the archery complex changed its minaret balconies around the 1890’s following the same process as many of the other mosques in the area. The Sheikh room and parts of the other structures can be seen seen in a phtograph taken by architect Hikmet Koyunoğlu.


There are important similarities between the Löwenheim’s drawing and this photo. However, the two-color stone arch entrance on Löwenheim’s desing seems to differ from the wide and flat weft as seen in the photograph. In another photo, dated 1930, another stone building can be seen on the Southeastern end of the courtyard. The Sheikh Room must have been destroyed by this date because we can see the water tank that laid beneath it. The newer stone minaret balcony can also be seen in the same picture.


There is a three-dimensional recreation of the Archery range made by Lodge at Miracle by Keramet and Metin Niğar. However, there are important discrepancies between this recreation and Architect Hikmet Koyunoğlu’s photograph.


Starting in the 1950’s, Okmeydanı and its environs experienced an intense occupation of shacks and rapidly became a slum. Many stones were removed from the archery range to be used in the newly built shanties.


After a lengthy bureaucratic approval process, many shanties were removed in 2005 and some of the area was placed under protection. The ensuing excavations revealed previous ruins and building surveys were created in light of these. Based on the building survey and other documents, we presented a restitution project for approval to the 2nd Istanbul Cultural and Natural Heritage Conservation District Board in November 2006. First, on February 7, 2007, it was decided that the range should be held as a cultural property under protection. Then, on November 28th of the same year a 1/20 scale survey of the area was asked of us. We objected to this because this would result with an enormous and unnecessary 3.5 x 3.5 meter survey. On top of that, the dig had revealed much non-uniform rubble stone used by the shanties that would be difficult to survey.


Our objection was finally accepted in 2008 and our project was approved in April 2010. subsequently, an agreement was signed between KİPTAŞ and the Gür Yapı construction company on January 19, 2011. We obtained the warrant on February 15, 2011 and the construction began. Our efforts dating back to 2005 finally bore fruit and in Seeptember 2012 we completed the project. We have brought Okmeydanı back to life!


Today’s Okmeydanı Okçular [Archery] Lodge consists of five different sections spread over an area of approximately 5,000m2: the Sultan’s summer palace, a small mosque, a conference hall, a museum, and a library. The conference hall has a capacity for 200 people, the library contains collections focused on the history of archery, and the museum will eshibit arrows and arches brought from the Topkapi Palace Museum. Underneath the arrow shooting range there is an underground parking area for 300 cars, acafeteria and changind and fitness rooms. The facility also boasts of an indoor archery range ready to be used for training in winter months.