The Basilica Cistern Istanbul is an absolutely must-see place, both historical and magical. It is located near Hagia Sophia: its entrance is discreet, do not hesitate to ask for “Yerebatan Sarnici”, which means the “underground cistern”.
A tank in shape of a basilica: The Basilica Cistern Istanbul
Capturing, transporting and storing water has always been a challenge over the centuries, and there is no shortage of buildings for these functions in Istanbul.
If the aqueducts are more visible and therefore more spectacular, the invisible cisterns have been neglected for many years because they were buried.
Among the 60 cisterns that were built in Istanbul, there is one that is considered the most beautiful of all both by its dimensions and by its decoration and it is the Basilica Cistern!
Abandoned, forgotten, dried up, collapsed, the cisterns have sometimes served as houses, warehouses, workshops, gunpowder magazines if not worse, open pit or garbage dump…
The Basilic Cistern in Istanbul or Yerebatan Sarnıcı (today)
After a long sleep interspersed with temporary awakenings, in 1968, the municipality of Istanbul carried out a first series of restoration of the columns and consolidation of the wall cracks. Followed in 1985 by a vast rehabilitation site highlighting the whole of the Basilica Cistern Istanbul now open to visitors.
Today, the Yerebatan Sarnıcı is one of the most visited monuments in Istanbul.
While entering a tank, you enter a magical world! A slightly moist atmosphere reminds you that you are dozens of meterss deep in the heart of Constantinople.
While walking through the forest of its judiciously lit columns, in a classical musical atmosphere, it is hard to imagine what this exceptional place was! The fall of the water drops from the ceiling reminds us that we are walking in a large tank that contained more than 78,000 m3 of water.
The monument dates from the 6th century and had been built by JUSTINIEN (Byzantine Emperor) at the same time as the Hagia Sophia. The cistern has been built for the primary use of water during the sieges of Constantinople and summer periods.
The cistern is rectangular, its measurements are 138 m by 64.6 m, it can contain 78,000m3 of water, the Basilica cistern in Istanbul is the largest cistern in Constantinople, among the 22 closed tanks in the city.
Its external wall is a brick masonry wall, 4 m thick, and covered with a hydraulic coating. The interior space is subdivided by 12 rows of 28 marble columns, for a total of 336 columns. Each column of the Basilica cistern in Istanbul in Istanbul measures 8 meters and supports arches and brick arches. Most are topped with Corinthian capitals, but there are also transom blocks. They all originate from various Roman temples.
Towards the end of the footbridges, a big surprise: two jellyfish heads carved in marble, attract all the attention. Why is the head upside down or on the side? To each his interpretation.
Opening hours of the Basilica Cistern Istanbul
Open from 9.00 AM until 17.30 PM in winter and from 9.00 AM until 20.30 PM in summer, 7/7.
Entrance fee of the Basilica Cistern Istanbul
Entrance ticket of 20 TL. It is fot free for children under 8 years old
The Basilica Cistern Istanbul is a real wonder where lots of movies have been filmed (e.g: From Russia with lovewith James Bond). From time to time, some music concerts are being organized there.