The Basilica Cistern

9:28:00 PM Unknown 0 Comments

This place may well have been our favorite site in Istanbul. It doesn't get as much press as the Blue Mosque or Hagia Sophia, but it was certainly interesting and atmospheric! This under ground cistern was built in AD 532 by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. The roof of the cistern is supported by 336 columns arranged in 12 rows. The columns and capitals were taken from other buildings already in ruin; talk about recycling! The cistern once held 80,000 cubic meters of water. I don't know how much that is, but I can tell you the place is very large.
The Details
AddressIstiklal Caddesi No: 19 / 9, 50400 Istanbul
Location: Across the street from the Hagia Sophia
Hours: 9am-6:30pm April-Sept/9am-5:30pm Nov-Mar

Cost: 10TL

Fish have been present in the cistern for at least 500 years. The source for the water was the Belgrade Forest, 13 miles north of the city. Anciently, it traveled along aqueducts.

Two of the more interesting features are the Medusa head column bases. One is turned upside down and the other on her side. It is said that the reason for this was to negate the power of Medusa (turning those who looked upon her to stone), but it may simply be that they are oriented the way they are to be the size they needed to be to accommodate the columns.
This column is called the peacock column for it's odd design but ancient texts suggest the tear drop design represents hundreds of slaves who died during construction of the cistern.
Each column is 9 meters high