Basilica Cistern … Sultanahmet, Istanbul Turkey

by World Travel Warehouse on April 8, 2010
This has quickly become one of my favorite places in Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey.

I happened upon this fantastic place when I was strolling out of the Hagia Sofia one day on my way to the Grand Bazaar. It amazed & enchanted me, and I continue to visit this lovely, mysterious place every single time I visit Istanbul.

The first time I entered Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnic) it was very quiet before many people had arrived for the day. I was immediately entranced. The low, lilting sounds of the soft music, along with the dimly lit walkways simpy enhance the visitor experience

The Basilica Cistern, built in 532 A.D., is Istanbul’s largest covered reservoir, and once supplied water to nearby palaces such as the Topkapi Palace and the Great Palace of Constantinople.

The Basilica Cistern is also known as the “Sunken Palace,” and was supplied with water flowing from forests in Belgarde, Serbia, to an excess of 100, 000 tons. Inside the Cistern there are a total of 336 columns, in 12 rows of 28 columns.


Several columns exist inside the Cistern that are worth noting:

1) The Peacock Column is supposedly a surviving column from the Arch of Theodosius

2) Medusa Columns: There are also the two columns located at the very end of the Basilica Cistern, whose bases are formed in the shape of the Medusa Head (a female monster from Greek mythology with hair made of snakes. Tales imply to look at her would turn you into stone.)

The Medusa upside down head is found on the base of one column and next to it is another Medusa head laid on its side. Stories abound as to why her head was placed upside down, but many believe that it was done to ward off evil spirits.

I highly recommend a stop by the Basilica Cistern if you are looking for interesting things to do in Istanbul.

Contact Us at World Travel Warehouse, if you need assistance with your Istanbul & Turkey travel. 


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