Basilica Cistern - Yerebatan Saray, Istanbul

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  • AVSENT's Profile Photo

    “Underground Man Made Reservoir”

    by AVSENT Written Mar 1, 2014

    This is an amazing structure to visit. Made by Romans to hide their water, it is a great architectural undertaking. They are nearly empty and have a small amount of water and fish. So, you can see the large underground space that stored the vast amount of water. It has a very interesting history as well, and is probably a top 10 attraction in Istanbul.

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  • IreneMcKay's Profile Photo

    Yerebatan Saray - The Underground Cistern

    by IreneMcKay Updated Oct 2, 2014

    This sight is also in the Sultan Ahmet area. For some reason many tourists don't visit the Yerebatan Saray. Perhaps they have not heard of it, don't notice it or think it won't be all that interesting. Personally I rather liked it. It's certainly something different.

    Yerebatan Saray means underground palace. It is a huge underground cistern. It was built in the sixth century by around 7000 slaves during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. This was the largest underground water cistern in Byzantium and provided water for the Great Palace, which stood on the site of the present day Sultan Ahmet Mosque. After the Ottoman conquest in 1453, the cistern provided water to Topkapi Palace. The cistern continued to be used up to even quite modern times.

    This underground cistern is approximately 453 feet by 212 feet, making it about 105,000 square feet in area. It is capable of holding 2,800,000 cubic feet of water. The ceiling of the cistern is supported by 336 marble columns, arranged in twelve rows of twenty-eight columns. Some of these columns are carved with tears. This is said to be in memory of the slaves who died building the cistern. Two of the most famous columns in the cistern are carved with the head of the Medusa. One is placed sideways, one upside down, perhaps in the hope she does not turn any visitors brave enough to look at her into stone.

    The water that used to fill the cistern came from the Belgrade Forest. This is about twelve miles north of Istanbul. The water travelled to the cistern through the Valens Aqueduct, and the Mağlova Aqueduct, which were built by the Emperor Justinian. Parts of these aquaducts can still be seen today.

    This cistern was used to film a scene from the 1963 James Bond film 'From Russia with Love'.

    Careful you don't get turned into stone.
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  • TrendsetterME's Profile Photo

    Cafe, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR

    by TrendsetterME Written Aug 14, 2013

    As you make your walking tour at the "Basilica Cistern - Yerebatan Museum" and if you get tired, there is a small cafeteria inside which you can have some cold / hot drinks and have a rest ..

    Also some snacks are available for your convenience ... :)

    Cafe, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Cafe, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Cafe, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Cafe, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Cafe, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR
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  • TrendsetterME's Profile Photo

    Souvenir Shops, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR

    by TrendsetterME Written Aug 14, 2013

    There are several "Souvenir Shops" on the exit way of the Cistern, in which you can buy some tshirts, hats, postcards, magnets and all those kinds of souvenirs to take back home ...

    Even there are batteries, memory cards etc are sold for your camera if you are in need of those ... :)

    Souvenir Shops, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Souvenir Shops, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Souvenir Shops, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Souvenir Shops, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Souvenir Shops, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR
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  • TrendsetterME's Profile Photo

    Wish Pool, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR

    by TrendsetterME Updated Aug 14, 2013

    As like the Fontana di Trevi in Roma, there is a "Wish Pool" at the Basilica Cistern in which visitors throw coins and make a wish ...

    Here you can watch my "Video" of "Basilica Cistern" accordingly .... :
    Video

    There are also many fish of several kinds swimming freely in the water of the Basilica Cistern, nice view for photography ... :)

    Wish Pool, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Wish Pool, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Wish Pool, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Wish Pool, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Wish Pool, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR
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  • TrendsetterME's Profile Photo

    Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR

    by TrendsetterME Written Aug 14, 2013

    "Basilica Cistern", one of the most visited historical and touristic spot of Istanbul ...

    Beneath Istanbul lie hundreds of gloomy Byzantine cisterns. They're left from the days when Istanbul was Constantinople.

    The grandest of all is the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnic), so called because it lay beneath the Stoa Basilica, a grand Byzantine public square. It's also called the Sunken Palace Cistern (Yerebatan Saray Sarniciı) because that's what it looks like.

    Whatever you call it, it's impressive because of its size, measuring 138 meters long and 64.6 meters wide, covering nearly 1000 square meters (2.4 acres); its capacity (80,000 cubic meters, over 21 million US gallons) and its 336 marble columns.

    Here on my "Travelogue" you can see more photos of this great architecture ... :
    Travelogue

    Massive restoration was required to make the Basilica Cistern as visitor-friendly as it is today.

    In 1985, 50,000 tons of mud was removed from the site and walking platforms were constructed; in 1994, another revamp was carried out.

    Now, visitors can stroll along the platforms and watch resident goldfish swim in the Cistern's cool waters. The Basilica Cistern also houses its own candlelit cafe where soft lighting and classical music contributes to the overall atmosphere of the place.

    Here you can watch my "Video" for the "Basilica Cistern" ... :
    Video

    A "must see" spot of Istanbul .... :)

    Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, TR
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  • SurfaceTravel's Profile Photo

    Basilica Cistern

    by SurfaceTravel Updated Apr 4, 2011

    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.

    Basilica Cistern Basilica Cistern Head of Medusa, Basilica Cistern
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  • Willettsworld's Profile Photo

    Medusa Column Bases

    by Willettsworld Written Mar 1, 2010

    Located in the northwest corner of the cistern, the bases of two columns reuse blocks carved with the visage of Medusa. The origin of the two heads is unknown, though it is thought that the heads were brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons' gaze.

    Open: 9am-5.30pm. Admission: TL10.

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  • floche2001's Profile Photo

    Don't miss the cisterns !

    by floche2001 Updated Apr 27, 2008

    Tough a little biut expensive, the visit to the Yerebatan Sarnici is a must in Istambul. Located just next to Aya Sofia, take 20 min to visit it. It's simply beautiful with 336 colums arranged in 12 rows of 28. The red lights in the water and the classical music are really pleasant. And go to then end to seethe two Medusa columns! Amazing !

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  • Snipernurse's Profile Photo

    The Basilica Cistern

    by Snipernurse Written Jun 24, 2008

    I was really surprised by the Cistern, it is quite interesting and impressive. Built in 532 AD, it features 336 columns in 12 rows, a couple of which feature upside down medusa heads. The lighting gives it a great ambiance but pictures are difficult. The cistern was used to bring water to the palace. Great for a visit in the heat of the afternoon

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  • eugini2001's Profile Photo

    from Byzantine times

    by eugini2001 Written Sep 16, 2012

    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.

    columns
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  • Underground

    by Dinaelghitany Written Sep 11, 2011

    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.

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  • aukahkay's Profile Photo

    Basilica Cistern

    by aukahkay Written Nov 8, 2008

    Located right in the heart of Sultanahmet is an intricate system of cisterns built by Emperor Justinian in AD 532. The cistern is 65 m wide and 143 m long and its roof is supported by 336 columns arranged in 12 rows. There are two unique columns supported by upside-down Medusa heads.

    Concerts are sometimes held in the cistern

    Basilica Cisterns Medusa head pillar
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  • John195123's Profile Photo

    Cisterns

    by John195123 Written Mar 11, 2008

    These are amazing. I don't want to say any more about them. But I will say that there's an entrance fee, not too bad, and some stairs. Inside, you walk on a raised platform, but it's a surreal experience. Beware the Medussa.

    Cisterns
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  • xiquinho's Profile Photo

    Yerebatan Sarayi - The Underground Palace

    by xiquinho Written Dec 29, 2007

    It isn't every municipal water-works that becomes a tourist attraction. But this 6th-century Byzantine underground water cistern is rather special, having been constructed using hundreds of Greek and Roman columns to support the 20m high brick vaulted ceiling.

    Measuring 140m by 70m, there's no hint in the busy road junction above that it even exists. Once inside you're free to wander the raised walkways through the forest of columns. Subtle lighting and piped classical music complete the atmospherics and give the ancient feat of engineering a suitably mystical ambience.

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