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"Basilica Cistern" Basilica Cistern - Yerebatan Saray Tip by Willettsworld

One of the magnificent historical constructions of Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern, located to the south-west of the Hagia Sophia. This huge cistern, which was founded by Justinianus I, a Byzantine Empire (527-565), began to be called by the public "the Sinking Palace" and not without reason, seeing the great number of marble columns arising out of the water. In place of the cistern was formerly a great Basilica, which had probably been built in the 3rd or 4th century during the Roman period which was used in commercial and legal affairs and scientific and artistic activities. The basilica was reconstructed by Ilius after it had burned down in a conflagration that broke out in 476.

This cathedral-sized cistern is an underground chamber approximately 143 metres (470 ft) by 65 metres (210 ft) - about 9,800 square metres (105,000 sq ft) in area - capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres (2,800,000 cu ft) of water. The ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns, each 9 metres (30 ft) high, arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns spaced 4.9 metres (16 ft) apart. The capitals of the columns are mainly Ionic and Corinthian styles, with the exception of a few Doric styles with no engravings.

The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of 4 metres (13 ft) and coated with a waterproofing mortar. The cistern's water was provided from the Belgrade Woods which lie 19km (12 miles) north of the city via aqueducts such as the 971m long Valens Aqueduct, which was built by the Emperor Valens in 368 AD and the 115m long Maglova Aqueduct, which was built by the Emperor Justinianus.

The cistern features two column bases that are carved with the visage of Medusa (see next tip). An interesting fact is that the cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love.

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

Address: Alemdar Mahallesi, Yerebatan Caddesi, No:1/3, Ista
Directions: In sultanahmet, very near Topkapi & Hagia Sofia
Phone: +90 212 522 1259

Review Helpfulness: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Mar 1, 2010
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