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Overview Of Basilica Cistern

Resting beneath the surface of Istanbul is a cathedral-like cistern, the Byzantine wonder Basilica Cistern. Called the “Yerebatan Cistern” by the localities due to its adorable marble columns, Basilica Cistern Istanbul is one of the top 10 tourist spots in Turkey and one of the most visited cisterns in the world. You might consider it a palace or cathedral but it is a cistern that was historically used for water storage in the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.

For exploring the magnificent place, you are welcomed by a 56-step stoned staircase entering the main area whose floor is covered by layers of bricks for water tightness. Sheltering 336 columns, the cistern has enchanting 98 columns reflecting the Corinthian style while the others are made in the Dorian style.

The cistern shines as a 4.80 m high brick wall estimated to store 100,000 tons of water! The captivating structure belonging to the Byzantines is visited by many international leaders such as the former American President Bill Clinton, and former Prime Minister of The Netherlands Wim Kok. Other important leaders of the countries of Italy, Austria, and Sweden, this place holds the international interests of many. Currently operating as a museum, the Basilica Cistern is a host of many national and international events.

Interesting Facts About Basilica Cistern

Ancient Basilica Cistern
  • Basilica Cistern, an underground water reserve lying beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey is an enormous rectangular area almost the size of a cathedral.

  • It is sized 143 m long and 65 m wide and possesses a capacity to hold 17.5 million gallons of water.

  • To reach the Basilica Cistern, you would have to go underground using a 52-step stoned staircase.

  • The Basilica Cistern Architecture shelters 336 columns with a height of 9 meters lying 5 meters apart from each other.

  • The main Highlight of the unusual place is two mysterious columns portraying the head of the mythological figure of Medusa.

History Of Basilica Cistern

Built In the reign of the Byzantine Empire, the Basilica Cistern of Turkey is one of the best remaining sites of the Asiatic Roman Extension. The Basilica Cistern is beautiful enough to look like a palace that you might Built-Inconsider visiting in Turkey, but it was a water storage chamber built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian the Great in 523 AD. In the 3rd or 4th centuries, it was originally a Basilica that faced Hagia Sophia and had beautiful gardens. This was a commercial and artistic center for the people to visit and was surrounded by a colonnade. The Basilica rested under a public square on the First Hill of Constantinople until it caught a major fire.

The Basilica was destroyed and went under a phase of reconstruction by Illus in 476 AD and finally was made into a cistern by Justinian 1 in the 6th century. The idea of turning the place into a cistern came owing to the damage to the entire city as the city was sent into repair mode after riots. The basilica cistern architecture had a storage capacity of 80,000 cubic meters of water the highest for the ancient city of Byzantium. The Basilica was enlarged and the construction of the cistern was not an easy task as 7000 slaves were involved in the process as claimed by the ancient Historical Texts. Some existing texts pay tribute to the brave 100 slaves who lost their lives in the construction of the underground masterpiece.

Basilica Cistern always did a fantastic job of serving water to the great palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First hill. Used for water storage facilities, this subterranean cistern was the largest of all the cisterns back in that time and remains to date. After the rise of the Ottoman Empire in the country, the cistern provided water to the elegant Topkapi Palace as well.

Medusa’s Heads

Medsua Heads

Used as a pedestal under the two columns in the northwest corner of the basilica cistern istanbul, are the two Medusa heads. The infamous heads are the ones people visit the Cistern for, which are originally believed to be used only as a column base. Being a powerful figure in Greek mythology, the placement of Medusa's head is a form of protection used by the Byzantine Emperors. The Roman masterpiece structure has three different positions according to the reflection angles of the lights.

Plan Your Visit To Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern

How to Reach:

  • By Taxi: This place can be reached by taxis very easily as you can board any taxi service near the Istanbul airport and reach it in the next 30-35 minutes.
  • By Tram: Taking a tram is a cost-effective option taking you to the Basilica Cistern in 50 minutes.

Best Time To Visit: The best time to visit Basilica Cistern Istanbul is from the months of March-May and September-November owing to the pleasant weather of Turkey.

Location: Basilica Cistern is situated in Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey

Distance from Istanbul Airport: The fascinating basilica cistern Istanbul is just 40 kilometers from the Istanbul airport

Tips For Visiting Basilica Cistern

  • The strange thing about the Basilica Cistern is that they don’t accept payments via debit and credit cards but only cash. As tickets get sold off very soon owing to their popularity, you must book online tickets to enjoy your exploration completely.
  • A common Turkish Museum Pass is not accepted to enter basilica cistern istanbul.
  • Being underground, there is a significant drop in temperature as you enter the place which may make you feel cold. So, don’t forget to carry a cardigan or some warm cloth for yourself.
  • The floor of Basilica Cistern is quite slippery due to its architecture, so you must be careful to wear comfortable footwear.
  • A little photography with mobile phones is allowed but tripods are strictly prohibited inside.

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