Basilica Cistern - the most important information
Just 150 meters southwest of the Hagia Sophia is located this ancient site. This is one of many cisterns in Istanbul that is lying underground. This kind of cistern was used for collecting and storing rainwater for later uses. Today, this cistern contains a small amount of water, and it is accessible for visitors to explore it.
History of Basilica Cistern
This cistern got its name because it was built under the public square on the First Hill of Constantinople, where once stood Basilica, dating from the III or IV centuries. But the cistern alone was built in the VI century. It was used to supply drinking water for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the Hill. This cistern is particular because of its size and the columns that hold it. It covers an area of 9.800 square meters, and its walls are 4 meters thick. The cistern is decorated with 336 columns, each 9 meters high, made of marble, and decorated differently. The capitals are made in Ionic, Corinthian, and Doric styles. It is believed that 7.000 slaves worked on the construction of this building.
What to see in Basilica Cistern?
Since Basilica Cistern is supported by differently decorated columns, it will be an adventure exploring them all.
- The Hen's Eye column - It is an exceptional column with a strong message. Tears are depicted on this column, representing a tribute to the slaves who made this grandiose cistern.
- Medusa column bases - Two columns in this cistern have Medusa’s head as bases carved in it. It is not known where they come from, but it’s believed that they were transferred from an archeological site. One head is laid on its side and the other upside down, which traditionally should negate the influence of the fatal gaze of the Gorgon.
Tickets and Opening Hours
- Opening hours - Usually, the cistern is open from 9 am to 6.30 pm. Currently, the entrance is not allowed because of the reconstruction of the cistern. (as of December 2021)
- Tickets - The regular ticket price is 30 Turkish Lira per person. Children under the age of 7 are free of charge.
How to get to Basilica Cistern?
Basilica Cistern is located in the heart of Sultanahmet, the most visited district in Istanbul. It is very near Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. If you're coming from Taksim Square, the city's main square, you can ride the F1 Funicular to Kabatas. In Taksim Square, the F1 funicular is located inside the metro station. From Kabatas Tram Station, take Tram T1 to Sultanahmet. This will take you around 15 minutes.
Basilica Cistern Trivia
- Basilica Cistern is a famous site where many movies filmed some scenes. A James Bond film, From Russia with Love, The International, Brotherhood of Tears, Inferno, and Black Widow are just some of those movies.
- The cistern can hold 80,000 cubic meters (21,000,000 US gal) of water.
- Even though the cistern was built by the Byzantines, the Ottomans still used it to provide the city with water.