"Yerebatan Sarnici: the Basilica Cistern" Basilica Cistern Tip by leics
Basilica Cistern, Istanbul: 5 reviews and 11 photos
Briliant place this...hugely atmospheric and really rather weird (because it was patently never intended to be looked at). Unfortunately, its presentation is a bit cheesy and visitor-focused...but that does not detract from the sheer archaeological and architectural interest.
This was the first of Sultanahmet's ancient cisterns to be fully excavated and it is a truly magnificent piece of architecture.
It is simply enormous, probably dating from the 4th century AD and perhaps enlarged in the 6th century).
It was properly rediscovered in the 1500s. The people who lived above it had sunk wells into it, and were even fishing in it! But the cistern wasn't fully cleared and made safe until 1987.
The water is full of fish , including some truly massive ones. The most interesting architectural bits and pieces are spotlit......and when I visited there was a continual dripping of water from the arched ceiling (which was a bit odd, and slightly disturbing).
There are 336 columns, many of which are recycled from other Roman sites. Make sure you see the two superb Medusa heads, one of which is used sideways, the other upside-down. I wonder if that was deliberate?
This place is well worth a visit, and well worth its entrance fee. it's a unique place and...if possible..one which is best visited with as few others as you can manage. Perhaps go early in the morning, so you are here at opening time?
You'll find the Basilica cistern very near Hagia Sophia, the Hippodrome and Topkapi. The entrance is on Imran Oktem Caddesi.
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