The Basilica Cistern is an ancient underground water reservoir located in Istanbul, Turkey. Built in the 6th century during the Byzantine era, it is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city. The cistern was used to provide water for the Great Palace and other buildings in the surrounding area, and it could hold up to 100,000 tons of water at any given time.
The cistern was built using a combination of Roman and Byzantine architectural styles, and it features 336 columns, many of which were salvaged from other buildings in the city. The cistern's most famous features are the two Medusa heads that support two of the columns, which are believed to have been repurposed from an ancient temple. Today, the Basilica Cistern is a popular tourist attraction and is open to the public for exploration. Visitors can walk along the raised platforms that run through the cistern, admiring the stunning columns and carvings, and listening to the sounds of the water and the fish that swim within it.
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One of the most mysterious features of the Basilica Cistern is the Weeping Column, located in the northwest corner of the cistern. This column is supported by a statue of a weeping woman, and legend has it that if you place your ear against the column, you can hear the sound of the column weeping. The source of the sound is unknown, and some believe that it may be the result of water dripping onto the column from above. Others speculate that the column is hollow and that the sound is created by the movement of air through the column. Regardless of the cause, the Weeping Column is a fascinating and eerie feature of the cistern that adds to its mystical atmosphere.
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At the base of one of the columns, visitors can spot a small, circular carving known as the Hen's Eye. The origin and significance of this carving are unknown, but it is believed to have had some symbolic significance in ancient times. Some speculate that the Hen's Eye may have been a talisman or amulet intended to ward off evil spirits, while others believe that it may have been a marker or symbol used by the builders of the cistern. Whatever its purpose, the Hen's Eye is a small but intriguing detail that adds to the sense of mystery surrounding the cistern.
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While the two famous Medusa heads at the base of two columns are the main attraction, there is also an upside-down Medusa head located in a corner of the cistern. Unlike the other Medusa heads, this one is positioned so that its face is upside down, with its hair flowing upward. The origin and significance of this carving are unclear, but it is believed to have been placed there intentionally. Some speculate that the upside-down Medusa head was meant to symbolize the inversion of the pagan beliefs that Medusa represented, while others believe that it may have been a tribute to the genius of the architects and builders who created the cistern.
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If you look closely at the water in the cistern, you may notice a ripple effect caused by the movement of the fish that inhabit the waters. This creates a mesmerizing and almost hypnotic effect that is truly unique to the cistern. The fish in the cistern is a type of carp known as Koi, and they are believed to have been introduced to the cistern in the 16th century by the Ottoman Turks. The Koi is not only a beautiful addition to the cistern but also serve a practical purpose by helping to keep the water clean and clear.
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There is a secret tunnel located in the northeast corner of the cistern that is accessible by climbing down a narrow staircase. This tunnel leads to a small room with a few columns and is believed to have been used for ceremonies or religious rituals. The purpose of the room and the tunnel are unclear, but some speculate that they may have been used for private gatherings
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The Basilica Cistern is an ancient underground water reservoir located in Istanbul, Turkey. It was built in the 6th century during the Byzantine era to provide water for the Great Palace and other buildings in the surrounding area.
Some of the hidden gems of the cistern include the upside-down Medusa head, the Hen's Eye column, and the ancient graffiti carved into the columns.
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The upside-down Medusa head is one of the most intriguing features of the Basilica Cistern. It is believed to have been placed upside down to negate the power of Medusa and protect the cistern from evil spirits.
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The Hen's Eye column is a column in the Basilica Cistern that is carved with the image of a peacock and a hen's eye. Legend has it that if you make a wish and stick your thumb into the hole of the column and turn it, your wish will come true.
Yes, the Basilica Cistern is wheelchair accessible, although visitors may need assistance navigating the uneven surfaces.
The best time to visit the cistern is early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. The cistern is open from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, with the last admission allowed at 5:00 pm.
Check Out Turkey Tourism Website for more Information