The underground water reservoir (cistern) was built by Byzantine Emperor I. Justinianus (527-565) and later on became known as “Yerebatan Sarayi” among public. As there was Basilica where Sarnic is, it is called ‘Basilica Cistern”. Length of it is 140 m, width is 70m and it is a giant rectangular structure. The ceiling gravity is distributed to columns through arches. The majority of the columns that were collected among older structures and sculptured in different marble types consist of one whole part and some of them consist of two parts. The capitals of the columns are of different characteristics: 98 of them reflect Corinthian style, while others are of Doric style. Walls of cistern, built with 4.80m thick bricks and bricked floor were made waterproof with Khorosan Mortar. This cistern lays on 9800 square meters field and has the capacity of 100 000 tones water storage. Two Medusa heads at the base of two columns are masterpieces of sculpture art in Roman Period. Basilica was restored twice in Ottoman Empire period and in 18th century in III Ahmet Sultan time (1723 AD ).In 19th century in Sulatan II Abdulhamid (1876-1909) time it underwent restoration again. 8 columns to the middle part were frozen with a big concrete layer and lost their characteristics as they were in danger of breaking down during a construction work that took place in 1955-1960. The cistern held a large area met water needs of palace and other residents living in this area in Byzantine period and it was in use for a period of time after Ottoman conquest of Istanbul in 1453 and the gardens of Topkapi palace were watered from this resource. Ottomans stopped using the reservoir after installing tap water system, considering cistern water as dead water. Gyllius discovered and introduced the cisterns to the western world way later, when he was looking for Byzantine remainders. Under the harsh circumstances Gyllius took a tour around the cistern on a boat ( I wish the boats were still available at the time of our tour) and determined where the columns were. He impressed many travelers after publishing his experience in his travel book. In a comprehensive renovation work that took place between 1985-1987 period 50000 ton of mud were taken away and walking platforms were placed in cistern, and open for visitors. It is obvious that there is no day light there, in undergrounds, but there is fish there swimming which is quite amazing. This tour will not take much time, 15-20 minutes is enough to look around.
Included on our coach tour was entry to the Cistern, a vast underground water storage. However due to the long lines of tourists waiting for entry our guide decided to move on and miss this magnificent underground cavern which dates back to the 6th century.
We were lucky as we had booked extra days post tour and returned to visit the Cistern the following day.
The magnificent columns have lasted the centuries and look impressive with the floodlights shining on them. Water remains in the cistern, but not to the extent of centuries before when it was full to the top.
There is a small cafe inside the cistern where you can sit and enjoy a coffee whilst enjoying the view, albiet that much of it is semi lit.
This is a historical site which should not be missed.
Basilica cistern is the one place, not so visible from outside, as all is underground. Cistern was built in 532 by Emperor Justinian. The water to this cistern was supplied by aqueduct by 20 kilometers from the North, a place near Black sea. Water was used for Constantinople functions. Inside there is about 336 columns with 12 rows as well as some columns with a head of medusas as a base.
Cistern was found accidentally, when someone told, that it is possible to catch a fish from a strange hole.
The place is mysterious and colder than outside. Watch your camera, as water sometimes drops down.
Entrance fee was 10 liras.
Very interesting underground cistern with beautiful lighting, and water with fish swimming there. Kids will love finding the fish. At the end, you will see two inverted medusa heads. It is very damp and dark, so once you finish , it is better to leave.
10 Lira gets you into a rather impressive underground world with 2 Medusa heads, no less!
It was originally used to store water (80,000 cubic metres!) and then... it was simply forgotten about although locals continued to enjoy the water that they could get by lowering buckets down through their floors... some people were even catching fish (of which there are many - from the small to the rather large and fat!) In 1545 Petrus Gyllius rediscovered it but the Ottoman's sadly used it as a dump - for rubbish and the dead!
It is beautiful - with columns... row by row...
The lighting is kept quite dark so I whipped out my little tripod and put my camera on a slow setting... I soon got told off - apparently it is forbidden to use a tripod in here!
As you enter the cistern you will find a gloriously tacky tourist opportunity to dress up as a sultan and be photographed. Usuaully shying away from such things I leaped in with both feet (it was my sons birthday so...) and I can conclude that the result was 4 incredibly hot and sweaty people sat awkwardly on a couch, having a camera and flash rammed right into our faces - it is a horrible photo but... it only cost a couple of lira and, well, I will never look at it again!!!!
The Basilica Cistern is one of the most impressive constructions in Istanbul that lies beneath the Hipodrome!
Although we have read about it we were surprised when we went downstairs and although there are no boats to carry you around (like when it first opened to the public) it’s still a great site to see. We loved the softly litted canals. There is music playing at the background (!) and if you have kids with you you may want to try find the biggest fish in the water.
The cistern that could hold 80,000 cubic meters of water was founded by emperor Justinian I. It was formerly a Basilica, probably built in the 3rd century, during the late roman period. The water sources were mainly in the forests of Belgrade (that were supplying other cisterns in the city too) and it was used to fed Constantinople’s Great Palace and much later Topkapi palace.
It covers an area of about 2 acres, there are 336 marble columns (9m high, many Ionic and Corinthians and some Doric ones) that support the huge water storage tank, most of them obviously taken from other constructions like temples etc. Don’t miss the weird medusa heads, probably the bases of columns, although its funny one of them is upside down and the other sideways (pic 2)
It is open daily 9.00-17.30 and the entrance fee is 10TL (there’s also an audio guide but we didn’t use it)
We saw people at the café but we preferred some fresh air outside.
The massive Basilica Cistern stretches 453 feet by 212 feet, covering over 2 acres and able to hold as much as 2,800,000 cubic feet of water. The underground water storage tank is supported by 336 marble columns, most of which were likely previously used in other construction projects.
The cistern's water supply was carried via canals and aqueducts, including the existing Valens Aqueduct in Istanbul, from the Belgrade forest to the cistern. The water from the cistern fed the
former Great Palace of Constantinople as well as Topkapi Palace in more modern times.
When the cistern was first open to modern tourists, boats carried visitors around the columns. Since 1987 people have been able to explore on the raised walkway that runs all the way to the back wall of the cistern.
The most visited feature of the cistern are the two Medusa's heads that form the bases of two columns. One head is upside down and the other is on its side.
Entry is 10 Turkish Lira for adults. Once inside you can get a headset for an audio tour for another 5 Lira.
During the Byzantine era there were not enough sources of water inside the city walls. Water from sources in the forests of Belgrade was directed into some sixty cisterns built in Istanbul. The Yerebatan Cistern is the biggest of these, holding about 80 megalitres of water which was delivered through the Valens Aquaduct.
It was used until the 16th century and restored in the mid 19th century. The restoration work was completed in 1987 and the cistern was opened to the public. At the back of the cistern there are two Medusa heads used as bases to columns. One is upside down, the other sideways.
Scenes from the James Bond movie 'From Russia with Love' were filmed here.
This cistern was built in AD 532 and stored 17,596,800 gallons of drinking water for the city. It's a very cool place to visit (literally as well as figuratively) and doesn't take too much time to see. There are 336 columns which make it an interesting sight, as they all come out of the water to hold up the very high ceiling. Spotlights along some columns provide an erie atmosphere as you walk along the stone pathways down the middle.
The Yerbetan (or Basilica) Cistern is a fantastic adventure into the depths of the earth just below your feet while you are in Istanbul. The entrance to this fantastic construction is a small unpretentious building with a small red sign. After paying your entrance fee, you walk down a flight of steps and enter a different world. Water for the ancient city of Istanbul was moved here by an aqueduct, and the sheer SIZE of this Cistern is amazing, 100,000 cubic meters of water. But what is even more fantastic is the columns jutting from the water and the fish swimming among them. They have done an excellent job with projected and subdued lighting that highlights them very well.
There are also two "Medusa Heads" at the bottom of two columns to be found here.
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