The Basilica Cistern is an ancient underground water reservoir located in Istanbul, Turkey. It was constructed in the 6th century during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I to provide water to the city's inhabitants. The cistern is named after the Basilica that used to stand above it, which is believed to have been used for public gatherings and ceremonies.
The cistern covers an area of approximately 9,800 square meters and can hold up to 80,000 cubic meters of water. It is supported by 336 columns, most of which were salvaged from ruined buildings and are thought to have been brought from various parts of the Roman Empire. The cistern was forgotten for centuries and was rediscovered by chance in the 16th century when a Dutch traveler noticed locals retrieving water from a hole in their basement floor. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction and one of the most unique and interesting sights in Istanbul.
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These two columns are the most famous in the Basilica Cistern, featuring the head of Medusa carved into their bases. It is unclear where they came from and why they were placed in the cistern.
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Located in the northwest corner of the cistern, this column features a carved medallion resembling a hen's eye. Its function is unknown, but it is believed to be an ancient Roman relic.
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These plain, unadorned columns are made of brick and were used to support the walls of the cistern. They are the simplest of the columns and are located in the corners of the cistern.
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These columns feature ornate carvings and decorations in the Corinthian style. They are located near the northwest corner of the cistern and are believed to have been repurposed from a previous structure.
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These columns are decorated with carvings of elephant tusks and are located in the northwest corner of the cistern. Their origin is unknown, but they are believed to have been brought to Istanbul from North Africa.
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These columns feature twisted shafts and ornate carvings, similar to those found in the Hagia Sophia. They are located in the southeast corner of the cistern and are believed to have been salvaged from a previous structure.
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These columns are located in the northeast corner of the cistern and feature spiraling grooves carved into their shafts. Their function is unknown, but they add an interesting visual element to the forest of columns.
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These columns feature a mix of different styles and decorative elements, including Corinthian and Ionic capitals. They are located in the central area of the cistern and are believed to have been salvaged from a previous structure.
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How to Reach
Location - Alemdar, Yerebatan Cd. 1/3, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul, Türkiye
Best Time to Visit - The best time to visit the Basilica Cistern is during the shoulder season, which is from April to May or September to November. During these months, the weather is pleasant, and the crowds are thinner than during the peak summer season. It's best to avoid visiting the cistern during the hottest months of July and August when temperatures can reach up to 30°C, and the crowds can be overwhelming. It's also recommended to visit the cistern early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the busiest times of the day.
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The Basilica Cistern is an ancient underground water storage system located in Istanbul, Turkey. It was built in the 6th century during the Byzantine era and is one of the largest surviving cisterns in Istanbul.
There are 336 columns in the Basilica Cistern, arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each. The columns are made of marble and granite, and many of them have ornate carvings and engravings.
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There are two Medusa heads in the Basilica Cistern, which are located at the base of two of the columns. It is believed that they were taken from a pagan temple and placed in the cistern as a protective measure against evil spirits.
No, visitors cannot walk on the water in the Basilica Cistern. There are raised wooden platforms that allow visitors to walk around the perimeter of the cistern and view the columns and water from above.
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The Basilica Cistern is not fully wheelchair accessible, as there are some steps and uneven surfaces throughout the site. However, there is a lift available for visitors who need assistance, and the staff are happy to help in any way they can.
A visit to the Basilica Cistern typically takes around 30-45 minutes, depending on how much time you spend admiring the columns and exploring the site. However, during peak tourist season, wait times can be longer, so it's recommended to allow for more time if visiting during these times.