It was so hard to pick just one place to talk about! I’m excited for this entire trip; it’s such an amazing opportunity to be able to experience a new city and culture as well as study the historical significance of all the palaces, mosques, etc. Only a few more days!
The Basilica Cistern was built during Emperor Justinian’s rule in order to provide the city of Istanbul with enough water. A cistern collects and stores water and this particular one is the largest of several hundred cisterns that are under Istanbul. It is 500 feet southwest of the Hagia Sophia and is 453ftx 212 ft, giving it the ability to contain 10,000 tons of water. However, today it only has a few feet of water along the bottom.
It was built around 532 AD under the Stoa Basilica Square, which explains the name. It is also known as the “Sunken Palace” or in Turkish, “Yerebatan sarayi”.
There are 336 large marble columns supporting the ceiling and 52 stone steps that lead into the entrance of the cistern. In one corner, there are 2 columns that have Medusa’s head carved into the base, one that is upside-down and one that is sideways. The reason for these orientations is still unknown.
It is considered one of the top tourist attractions in Turkey and has even been in the James Bond movie “From Russia with Love”.
I can’t wait to hear the dripping water, see the beautifully designed columns and learn more about its history. It is such a unique place; I have never seen a cistern before and I’m happy that this one will be my first.