Ancestral Sport In A Dervish Lodge: Archery

Melek Cevahiroğlu Ömür January 2014

HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN ARCHERY, A SPORT FAMILIAR TO US FROM THE BATTAL GAZI AND ROBIN HOOD FILMS AND OUR OWN ANCESTRAL SPORT? THE ARCHERS’ LODGE THAT OPENED RECENTLY IN KAĞITHANE HAS REVIVED THIS ANCIENT TRADITION.

Tekkede Ata Sporu: Okçuluk
Tekkede Ata Sporu: Okçuluk

The world’s oldest known means of defense, besides being sports tools, the bow and arrow were frequently used as a letterhead on the official Seljuk correspondence of the Seljuk Turks. Enjoying a virtual golden age in the Ottoman period, the sport of archery developed through knowledge and experience to the highest level of technology in terms of range, tension and striking power. Known as the ancestral sport of the Turks, it has continued in the Republican period. Now you can learn everything you ever wanted to know about this sport at the Archers’ Lodge in Istanbul.

A 500-YEAR-OLD LODGE
Built mainly for the mystical practices of the dervish orders in the Ottoman Empire, lodges were at the same time venues for art and sport. Research shows that the Archers’ Lodge, the exact date of whose construction is not known, was probably built by Sultan Beyazid II toward the end of the 15th century. A lodge under construction and a small mosque without a minaret leap out in a contemporary miniature painting by Matrakçı Nasuh. Apparently Istanbul, whose Turkish population continued to grow under Beyazid II, was also experiencing an architectural transformation under the impact both of the Akhi Brotherhood culture and of the Islamic religion. And the Archers’ Lodge was part of that transformation.
The lodge, which opened every year on Hıdrellez Day, May 6th, for six consecutive months of archery training, underwent a series of restorations over time. A minaret was added by Ebubekir Ağa in 1771, and a major repair was undertaken in 1819 at the behest of Mahmud II.

NEW CENTER FOR ARCHERY
Waning in splendor and importance with the coming of the Republic, the Archers’ Lodge was virtually forgotten until Sinan Genim and his team decided rehabilitate this ancient venue for a sport going back hundreds of years. Following a series of negotiations, projects and permits, the work was completed in 2012 and the lodge reopened with pomp and splendor on May 23, 2013. Built on an approximately 5,000 square-kilometer area on the Okmeydanı (literally “Arrow Square”, an archery range in Ottoman times), the Archers’ Lodge consists of five sections: an imperial pavilion, a lecture hall, a museum, a library and a small mosque. Two indoor archery ranges for training people of all ages are aimed at reviving the sport today.

AS OLD AS ADAM HIMSELF
There are even legends to the effect that the bow and arrow first appeared in Paradise: According to one of them, taken from Imam Taberi, when Adam was unable to fend off the birds that were eating his crops, he started praying to Allah. Heeding Adam’s pleas, Allah sent him a bow and arrow with the Angel Gabriel. Said Gabriel of the bow, “This is the power of Allah”, and of the arrow, “And this is His wrath”, and he showed Adam how to use them.

OPINION
“The Archers’ Foundation is a large complex where sport and cultural activities go hand in hand. Our goal is to acquaint as many people as possible with the sport. We also offer special courses for a fee to those who would like to practice the sport professionally. Our purpose is to elevate the sport to the level it deserves as well as training athletes for the 2016 Olympics.”
ALİ VATANSEVER-Trainer at the Archers’ Foundation Lodge