The Basilica Cistern

When a friend of mine lent me her Istanbul guide book she said “You must see this place…”

Located only a few minutes walk from the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and under the busy streets of Istanbul, lies the Basilica Cistern. She was right.

Apparently there are hundreds of ancient cisterns beneath the streets of Istanbul but the Basilica Cistern is the largest of them all. Dark, humid and cold and a great escape from hot summer day. It is an architectural wonder. Built in the 6th century it is 143 meters long and 65 meters wide.

The roof is supported by 336 (12 rows of 28 columns each) marble columns, each nine meters high and the walls are over 4 meters thick. It was built to store drinking water for the city of Constantinople. ‘Lost’ for centuries and rediscovered in 1545 it was finally opened to the public in 1987 after many renovations.

Basilica Cistern336 beautifully lit marble columns.

Basilica Cistern

Basilica CisternDo you remember it in From Russia with Love?

Basilica CisternA must see while in Istanbul.

Basilica CisternThe water, previously used for drinking, is now home to lots of big fish (that dodge coins thrown by tourists) and is used as cleaning water for Hagia Sophia.

Basilica CisternCarved into the base of two of the columns: giant Medusa heads.

Basilica CisternUpside down face of Medusa.

Basilica CisternLovely cafe by the exit.

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