Nestled beneath the bustling streets of Istanbul lies one of the city’s most captivating and mysterious attractions: the Basilica Cistern. Also known as the Yerebatan Sarnıcı, this ancient cistern was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, and it remains one of Istanbul’s most fascinating and unique landmarks to this day.
The Basilica Cistern is one of the city’s many cisterns, and it was used to store water for the nearby Palace of the Blachernae. With its intricate brickwork, soaring columns, and hauntingly beautiful atmosphere, the cistern has captivated visitors for centuries.
Upon entering the cistern, you are immediately struck by its sheer size and beauty. The cistern is nearly 140 meters long and 70 meters wide, and its ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns that are intricately carved and decorated. The columns are arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each, and they are topped with capitals that are carved with intricate designs and motifs.
As you wander through the cistern, you will notice that the columns are set in a sea of water, which reflects the flickering light of the lanterns and creates a mesmerizing and ethereal atmosphere. The cistern is dimly lit, which makes it even more mysterious and creepy. The sound of water dripping creates a haunting and unforgettable atmosphere.
One of the most interesting features of the Basilica Cistern is the pair of massive stone Medusa heads that are incorporated into the bases of two of the columns. These heads are believed to have been taken from an ancient temple or monument, and they are thought to symbolize the power of the ancient gods.
Another interesting feature of the cistern is the intricate brickwork that lines the walls and floor. The brickwork is made from a mixture of clay and marble, and it is decorated with intricate patterns and motifs that are inspired by ancient Greek and Roman designs.
In addition to its beauty and historical significance, the Basilica Cistern also has a rich and fascinating history. The cistern was built in the 6th century to store water for the Palace of the Blachernae, and it remained in use until the Ottoman Empire conquered Constantinople in the 15th century. After the cistern was taken over, it was forgotten and left to fall apart. It wasn’t until the 16th century that a Turkish historian and traveler named Petrus Gyllius found it again.
Since its rediscovery, the Basilica Cistern has been a popular tourist attraction, and it has been carefully restored and maintained over the years. Today, the cistern is one of the city’s most popular attractions, and it is visited by thousands of tourists every year who come to admire its beauty, mystery, and historical significance.
In conclusion, the Basilica Cistern is a must-visit for anyone visiting Istanbul. This ancient cistern is a fascinating and unique landmark that offers a glimpse into the city’s rich and fascinating history, and its beauty and mysterious atmosphere are sure to leave a lasting impression. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture lover, or simply looking for an unforgettable experience, the Basilica Cistern is an essential stop on any Istanbul itinerary.
Byzantine Cisterns in Istanbul
The cisterns in Istanbul are a fascinating and often overlooked part of the city’s rich cultural heritage. Throughout history, Istanbul has been known for its abundant water supply, and the city has built a vast network of cisterns and underground reservoirs to store and distribute this precious resource.
The cisterns in Istanbul served a variety of purposes throughout history, from providing a source of drinking water for the city’s residents to supplying water for public baths, fountains, and even the famous Hagia Sophia. The cisterns were also an important source of irrigation for the city’s many gardens and parks, and they played a crucial role in the city’s development and growth.
One of the most famous cisterns in Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern, also known as the Yerebatan Sarnıcı. This ancient cistern was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, and it is one of the largest and most impressive cisterns in the city. The cistern is nearly 140 meters long and 70 meters wide, and its ceiling is supported by 336 marble columns that are intricately carved and decorated.
Another notable cistern in Istanbul is the Binbirdirek Cistern, also known as the Sunken Palace. This cistern is thought to date back to the 4th century and was used as a palace by the Byzantine Emperors. A cistern is now a popular place for tourists to visit, and they can admire its beautiful atmosphere and intricate brickwork.
In addition to the Basilica Cistern and Binbirdirek Cistern, many other cisterns throughout Istanbul are worth visiting. The Valens Aqueduct Cistern is one of the oldest and largest cisterns in the city, and it is located in the heart of Istanbul’s historic Fatih district. The Little Aya Sofya Cistern is another interesting cistern that is worth visiting, and it is known for its beautiful brickwork and tranquil atmosphere.
Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture lover, or simply looking for an off-the-beaten-path experience, the cisterns in Istanbul are a must-visit for anyone visiting the city. These ancient structures offer a unique and fascinating glimpse into the city’s rich cultural heritage, and they are sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit.
In conclusion, the cisterns in Istanbul are an often overlooked but essential part of the city’s cultural heritage, and they offer visitors a unique and fascinating glimpse into the city’s rich history and heritage. So, if you’re planning a visit to Istanbul, be sure to include a visit to one of the city’s many cisterns on your itinerary!
What to Do Around the Basilica Cistern
Here are some of the other notable sights and attractions to see around the Basilica Cistern:
Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or shopping, there is plenty to see and do around the Basilica Cistern. These attractions offer a unique and fascinating glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of Istanbul, and they are sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit.
Q: What is the Basilica Cistern?
A: The Basilica Cistern is an underground water tank in Istanbul, Turkey. It was built during the Byzantine Empire in the sixth century.
Q: What is its history?
A: The Basilica Cistern was built in the 6th century during the Byzantine Empire to supply water to the city of Constantinople. It was found again in the 1600s, and people have been able to go there as a tourist attraction since the late 1800s.
Q: How big is the Basilica Cistern?
A: The Basilica Cistern is 140 meters long and 70 meters wide, covering an area of 9,800 square meters.
Q: What is the significance of the Basilica Cistern?
A: The Basilica Cistern is one of the largest and oldest water storage buildings from the Byzantine Empire that is still standing. It is an important part of the city’s cultural heritage.
Q: What is inside the Basilica Cistern?
A: Inside the Basilica Cistern, there are 336 columns supporting the roof, two large stone slabs known as the “Medusa heads,” and a small stage for musical performances.
Q: How deep is the water in the Basilica Cistern?
A: The water in the Basilica Cistern is about 2.5 meters deep.
Q: How many columns are in the Basilica Cistern?
A: There are 336 columns in the Basilica Cistern.
Q: What are the “Medusa heads”?
A: The “Medusa Heads” are two large stone slabs in the Basilica Cistern. They are thought to have come from an older building and have been used again.
Q: Is the Basilica Cistern open to the public?
A: Yes, the Basilica Cistern is open to the public and is a popular tourist attraction in Istanbul.
Q: Can visitors go inside the Basilica Cistern?
A: Yes, visitors can go inside the Basilica Cistern and explore the underground chamber and its columns, Medusa heads, and other features.
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Map of Basilica Cistern