Basilica Cistern in Istanbul

One of the most interesting tourist attractions of Istanbul, the Basilica Cistern, is in the immediate vicinity of the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. It is also known as the Cistern Sinking Into Ground (Yerebatan Sarnici).

The construction of this subterranean water storage was started in 532 under Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. The cistern was supplied with water through the Valens aqueduct from the Belgrad Forest. Having the size 165х45 m, the cistern could contain up to 80 thousand cubic meters of water, which was very important in the case of a drought or a siege of the city.

The vaults are supported by 336 8-meter columns, which give you an impression of being in a palace. The columns are of various shapes as they were taken from different ancient temples of the empire. The most interesting columns are the two columns with the head of Gorgon.

In the period of the Byzantine Empire the cistern was actively used, but after Constantinople was conquered by the Turks its importance was significantly reduced. For some time the water from the cistern was used for the gardens of the Topkapı Palace but then the water got very dirty and the cistern was abandoned. In 1987 the cistern was turned into a museum, which you must visit.