15-06-2019 - Museums

History of Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern, located southwest of Hagia Sophia, is one of Istanbul's best tourist attractions. As one can see from the underground marble columns, this large underground water reservoir was installed for Justinianus I, the Byzantium Emperor (527-565), and is known to the public as the "Yerebatan Cistern'' Since there used to be a basilica on the site of the cistern, it's now known as Basilica Cistern.

 

The Basilica was a Roman cathedral. The Cisterna Basilica, also known as the Cistern, is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns in Istanbul, Turkey. The cistern, which is 150 meters (490 feet) southwest of Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. It is now stored with only a small amount of water inside the space for public access. When you visit Istanbul, pay a visit to the Basilica Cistern, which holds a significant position among Istanbul's historical sites.

 

The cistern is a huge structure that occupies a rectangular area, measuring 140 meters long and 70 meters wide. There are 336 9-meter-high columns in the Cistern, which can be accessed with a 52-step staircase. The columns are spaced at 4.80 m intervals and are made up of 12 rows of 28 columns each. The case-bay of the cistern is transported over arches by the columns. The rest of the columns are made up of a single piece, with the exception of one that is made up of two pieces. The bulk of the columns are believed to have been sculpted out of various styles of marbles and gathered from ancient sites in Istanbul.

 

The heads of these columns have a variety of patterns. The Corinthian style is used in 98 of them, while the Dorian style is used in the remaining ones. For water resistance, the cistern's walls are 4.80 meters thick, and the floor is bricked and plastered with a dense layer of brick dust mortar. The cistern covers a total area of 9,800 square meters and can hold 100,000 tons of water.

 

Medusa Heads in Basilica Cistern

In the northwest corner of the cistern, the bases of two columns are made of blocks engraved with Medusa's profile. The two heads' sources are unclear, although they are thought to have been transferred to the cistern after being removed from a late Roman structure. There is no written documentation that they were used as column pedestals in the past. The blocks are claimed to be twisted and angled sideways to deflect the Gorgons' gaze; however, it's commonly thought that one was oriented sideways only to be the correct size to hold the column. The upside-down Medusa was mounted that way so she would be the same height right-side up as the usual Medusa. This mythological building definitely deserves a visit during your Istanbul vacation.

 

According to legend, 7,000 slaves were used in the construction of the cistern. The enlarged cistern served as a water filtration plant for Constantinople's Great Palace and other First Hill residences, and it continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

 

According to ancient sources, the basilica had gardens that were surrounded by a colonnade which faced the Hagia Sophia. Emperor Constantine built a structure that was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian following the 532 Nika riots, which devastated the city.

 

Save Time and Money with Istanbul Tourist Pass!

 

The Istanbul Tourist Pass is needed whether you are a first-time traveler or returning to the amazing city of culture. The Pass gives you access to more than 75 attractions while still saving you money! With the Istanbul Tourist Pass, you can save up to 75%. You will also save a lot of time with the Pass and you will not have to stand in ticket queues. All you have to do now is screen your pass on your phone and you're free to go! There are a slew of other benefits that come with the Pass that you can check out!

 

Latest Posts

14-03-2022

Nightlife in Istanbul

Istanbul offers world-class entertainment and nightlife activities to its visitors with its quality restaurants in Istanbul, music clubs, theatres and concerts, nightclubs, bars and pubs. Istanbul is also one of the few major cities in the world that...

11-11-2021

6 Must-Visit Historic Mosques in Istanbul

Thanks to its deep history which is comprised of many empires, cultures and religions, Istanbul is one of the most culturally rich and diverse cities in the world. Because of this, you can find numerous historically significant sites here, from churc...

06-03-2021

A Brief History of Galata Tower

Galata Tower is one of the most magnificent sights in Istanbul, overlooking "Beyoglu" and "Karakoy" from its incredible location. Its colorful lights can be seen at night from all over the city, so it is one of the most famous tourist destinatio...

07-09-2022

Where to go in Istanbul with family

Where to go in Istanbul with family If you booked your flight and soon are coming to Istanbul with your children and wondering where to go in the city, we would like to let you know beforehand that there are plenty of great places to visit. Moreover...

01-08-2022

August in Istanbul

What to do in August Dear guest, Istanbul lover-to-be! You finally arrived in one of the most popular cities around the world, we hope you throughly enjoy it! Whilst you just arrived, we have few recommendations and tips for making your experience e...

08-09-2022

Where to stay in Istanbul with family

Where to stay in Istanbul with family You finally booked your flight, and are eager to see the beauty of Istanbul within days from your flight. For your trip here, you rightfully want to stay at one of the best hotels in Istanbul for families that w...

14-10-2022

4 Best Indian restaurants in Istanbul

Indian cuisine is widely loved across the globe for its rich ingredients, intoxicating aromas, and fresh blend of spices. Its historic staple diet consisting of whole-wheat flour, rice, and vegetables makes it unique and flavoursome. Travellers, espe...

14-10-2022

3 Best Nightclubs in Istanbul

Istanbul, a city full of zest, has so much to offer to its visitors from across the globe. Whether you're interested in its historic architecture, deep-rooted culture & heritage, delicious food, or the city's flashy nightlife, there's something f...

16-10-2022

Istanbul Branches of World-Famous Eateries

If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul.  Alphonse de Lamartine   Istanbul is full of surprises in every corner. The city can surprise you with its colours, sounds, and amazing views as well as t...

19-10-2022

Restaurants in Istanbul: Where to Eat in Istanbul Old Town

Istanbul is not only the meeting point of cultures but also of cuisines! There are various options to taste delicious food from all over the world in the city. While visiting the magnificent Hagia Sophia or taking great Instagram photo...

4.8 out of 5 stars

Istanbul Tourist Pass® has an average rating of 4.8 /5 from 475 reviews

Read all traveler reviews →
Attractions Prices
 Buy
Pass
Plan Save
More