Istanbul - Basilica Cistern

Beneath Istanbul, there lie more than lots and lots of Byzantine cisterns. They are mark of wisdom of ancient times of Byzantine emperors. However, grandest of all these cisterns is Basilica Cistern or Sunken Palace Cistern or Yerebatan Saray Sarnici (as its called in Turkish). This cistern is located near Hagia Sophia. The Basilica Cistern is 138 mts in length and 64.6 mts in width covering almost 1000 sq.mets. The cistern has 335 columns made up of marble and its capacity is 20 million US gallons.

Rediscovery on World Map

Basically, Basilica Cistern was built in sixth century by Justinian, it reserved water for Great palace and other places around. However, it was lost between times but when Petrus Gyllius came to the city, he noticed local people who were pulling the water from holes in their houses and went onto find an entrance to this landmark to put it back on the world map. Have you seen the movie “From Russia With Love” picturised on James Bond? If yes, you must have seen James Bond rowing through marble columns in a small boat? That scene has been picturised in Yerebatan(Basilica). Now, it’s your chance to relive those moments by visiting this historical place.

The Main Attraction

The main attraction of Basilica Cistern is its large gate which opens on Yerebatan Caddesi and the path goes through cistern towards the exit on Alemdar Caddesi. You need to take 52 stone steps to descend into the entrance. The place has been surrounded by a wall made up of firebricks with 4 mts thickness and coated with waterproof mortar. The most important question that might come in your mind is how did water come into this cistern? The water used to come from different sources with Aqueducts which are 12 to 25 miles away from the place. The water ran through Aqueducts which were built by different Emperors and the most famous one is Valens Aqueducts in Sarachane. Basilica Cistern really deserve a visit if you are a guest to Istanbul.