Basilica Cistern

One of Istanbul’s most famous historical sites, The Basilica Cistern, impresses visitors with its 336 columns, each nine meters long, and two Medusa heads making it one of the most famous cisten in Istanbul

Istanbul, Turkey

Coordinates: 41.008400, 28.977900

The Basilica Cistern, is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul, Turkey.

The cistern, located 150 metres (490 ft) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. Today it is kept with little water, for public access inside the space.

Located on the same historical peninsula with the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, the magnificent place has been the subject of archaeological intrigue as well as Hollywood blockbusters – besides being thronged by thousands of tourists every day.

This cistern is an underground chamber approximately 138 meters by 65 meters. It covers an area of 9,800 square meters, capable of holding almost 80,000 cubic meters of water. The cistern met the water needs of the Byzantine palaces and other residents in the area. It was used for a while after the conquest of Istanbul in 1453. The water was used in the gardens of Topkapı Palace.

Archaeologists say the cistern fell into disuse during the Ottoman Era because the Ottoman’s preferred running water. The cistern was brought to global attention by French natural scientist, Petrus Gyllius, who visited Istanbul in the 1540s to research Byzantine ruins.

Medusa heads are the identifying architectural features of Basilica Cistern. They are thought to have been brought to be used as supports for the columns at the time of construction of the cistern. However, the exact reason is not known. The snake-haired Medusa is a famous character in Greek mythology and one of the three Gorgons of the underworld. The Gorgons have the power to turn others into stone.

Know This

Steps away from Hagia Sophia with only few Euros entry fee and you don’t have an excuse.

Temperature down is cool with very little light which adds to the atmosphere. You need around half an hour for a visit.

Just for your info they do not have bathroom. If you need one, close by is payed one.