The Basilica Cisterns are not far from Hagia Sophia. This is a huge cathedral-like underground reservoir. There are hundreds of elegant columns and brick arches that support the 26-foot-high ceiling. A few inches of still, clear water cover the stone floor. There are raised walkways in this cistern that allow tourists to wander through the chamber. You can see fish in the water. This place was filmed for a scene in the movie "From Russia With Love". One of the columns is upside down. These columns were brought to Istanbul from various places in Europe.
It felt good to be inside where it was a little cooler during the heat of the day.
Some people might say it is just a big hall with lots of columns but I can say that I was deeply impressed by this underground water palace. For me it is on the top of the must see actifities in Istanbul. That is why I start this section with Yerebatan Sarnici (Basilica Cistern).
What you see when you get inside is this vast space with the columns spreading all over the place and their reflection in the water. The atmosphere is very peaceful and mystique. This impression is underlined by the music they play inside of the museum.
The thngs that mostly attract my attention were:
- the column with the ornate body
- the two columns with the Medusa heads in northwest corner of the cistern
- the fish that swims in the water
After you are finished with your tour you might stop for a short break in Cistern Cafe
The floor is slippery due to the drops of water falling from the ceiling.
Some facts, pictures and additional comments from me:
I could spend there much longer but if you really want just to see the place and take a couple of pictures it should not take longer then 20 - 30 min.
09:00 - 17:30 everyday
TL 10 000 000 / YTL 10
TL 3 000 000 / YTL 3
Okay, it's cheesy. New age music is piped in, creating an eerie effect. Lighting is shown to give an otherworldly glow to an already weird place.
Nevertheless, it is worth however much it costs to get in. The columns were scavenged from old Greek monuments, water drips from the ceiling, fish swim in the eternal darkness. And it's cool, which must be wonderful on a hot day.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best surprises that you will find in Istanbul. The little building above ground at the entrance gives no clue about what lies beneath. This is a vast chamber with columns that makes you feel like you are in a fantasy movie. Music sets the mood and you can also hear the water dripping. Dont miss the medusa stone works at the back. This ancient cistern was a water source for Constantinople for hundreds of years. I do not know where else you can find something similar to this.
In the left corner, in the far end, of Basilica Cistern are two columns standing on a Medusa head each. One of the Medusa heads are upside down and the other is lying on its side. Because they are like this they are probably not for decoration but only old stones that have been reused.
Medusa, who according to the Greek mythology could petrify with her looks, is now “in stone”.
In the back of the sunken cistern there are two columns which have bases that are Medusa's Heads. There are many legends surrounding these columns and there are 3 prominently displayed placards that describe the tales. Don't miss them if you make it here!
The Column of Tears is named, because of the tear like design it bears. It is located in the middle area of the sunken cistern and unfortunately there is not much information on it.
First constructed during the reign of Constantin I (306-337) the cistern was restored and extended by Justinian. There are twelve rows of columns supporting the superstructure, each with 28 columns.
The classical music and some pulsing lights makes this underground walk quite strange
This amazing Underground Cistern, or Yerebatan Sarayi, was originally linked to Topkapi Palace, but was closed off to stop the trafficking of stolen goods and abducted women. It also was the site of a battle between Mahmut II and the Janissaries around the time of the "Auspicious Event."
Now it is a huge cavern consisting of 336 supporting columns that are illuminated by red lights. You are able to walk through the cistern on wooden constructed walkways that are elevated above the shallow waters .
The place is eerily quiet except for the occasional pitter patter of random drops of water. It is occasionally used as a place for art exhibitions.
The Basilica, or Sunken, Cistern, is a 6th-century Byzantine cistern underground which one can visit. Its bottom is full of water and it provides a great example of Byzantine vault construction and of the recycling of columns and sculptures, with many highly decorated old pieces being stuck in there any which way to help hold up the roof.
One of İstanbul's historical art product is the Basilica Cistern which is situated at a short distance further southwest of Ayasofya. This underground cistern, which was named idiomatically by the local people as "Yerebatan Palace" because of the columns that arise from its water and create an image of a place, was constructed by Emperor Justinianus The First (527-567 A.D). It is thought that in the late years of the Roman Empire, around the 3rd and 4th Century, at the place where the cistern is found today, there existed a great Basilica which was used for trade, legal, scientific and artistic activities. . According to their findings the cistern is a vast building of 140 m. long and 70 m. wide. In this cistern, which can be reached after walking down 52 steps on stone stairs, there are 336 columns each 9 m. high spaced at a distance of 4.8 m. apart. There are 12 lines of columns each line comprising of 28 columns. The columns erected in the water in this way resemble a vast forest and for that reason they happen to be the centre of attraction to the visitors as soon as they enter the cistern. The weight of the entire cistern's ceiling is adequately distributed to the columns through round arches. These columns are considered to have been collected from ancient buildings. They Are made of various types of marble and granite stones and they are mostly of one piece each although some of them are of two pieces placed on top of each other. The heads of these columns have different specialities 98 of them depict the Corint style while as the rest depict the Dor style.
The cisterns which were used to supply water to the Byzantium palaces and the surrounding buildings were used for watering the sultan's palace gardens for a short time during the Ottomans after their conquest of Istanbul in 1453 A.D. The Ottomans who preferred flowing water to stagnant one constructed their own water system in the city and the water from the cistern was no longer used.
open 7 days in a week between 9a.m.-5p.m.
The Basilica Cistern was built in 524 CE by Justinian I to provide water storage when the city was under seige. Of the over 200 columns the two with the Medusa heads at the base are the most striking. Sometimes they hold concerts down here -- as you can imagine the acoustics are rather resonant!