Basilica Cistern, Istanbul, Turkey

This content was last updated on 24.01.2024 22:20

Restoration work in the Basilica Cistern, which is among the most popular places to visit in Istanbul, ended and was reopened with a ceremony held on July 22, 2022. In this article, we have gathered the answers to the frequently asked questions about the Basilica Cistern. If you want to see the new version of the building, you can discover how to get to the Basilica Cistern, cistern entrance fees and much more with this content. If you have a plan to go to Istanbul, do not forget to visit the renovated Basilica Cistern.

The Story of the Basilica Cistern

Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

During the reign of the Roman and Byzantine empires, Istanbul was one of the most besieged cities, and food and drink stocks were running out during the sieges. In order to solve this problem, many cisterns were built in Istanbul at that time and the largest of these cisterns is the Basilica Cistern.

The cistern is 140 meters long and 70 meters wide. There are 12 rows of columns with a height of 9 meters in the Basilica Cistern, which is descended via a 52-step stone staircase, and there are 28 columns in each row.

Basilica Cistern is also known as Basilica Cistern because there was a basilica on the cistern in the past.

The Basilica Cistern, which has a capacity to store approximately 10,000 tons of water, is located in the southwest of Hagia Sophia Mosque, another symbol of Istanbul in terms of its location.

While the 98 columns in the building were specially built for the Basilica Cistern, spolia materials were also used. Corinthian capitals, inverted Medusa capitals and decorated columns are among the details you can see in the Basilica Cistern.

Since 8 columns on the northeastern wall of the cistern were exposed to the danger of breaking during a construction work between 1955 and 1960, cement was frozen in molds to protect it from external effects, and this is one of the details that spoils the appearance inside the cistern.

The Basilica Cistern is a building inspired by Dan Brown's novel Hell. Even while the film of the novel was being shot, a replica of the cistern was made on the film set in Budapest, and the film was shot in the copied area in order not to damage the historical texture of the cistern.

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The Legend of Medusa Head Statues

Head of Medusa, Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

There are two Medusa head statues in the northwest corner of the cistern. One of these statues is upside down while the other is placed sideways. Although there are many legends about the head of Medusa statues, how it came into the cistern, one of them is extremely popular.

The legend of the Medusa head statue is as follows. In Greek mythology, the sharp-toothed monsters with snakes in their hair, and those who petrify those who look into their eyes, are called gorgons. In the period when the Basilica Cistern was built, statues and paintings of gorgons were used to protect large structures. It is thought that Medusa head statues were placed in the structure to protect the cistern.

Basilica Cistern Opening Hours

The Basilica Cistern, which has been closed for restoration since 2020, was opened with a ceremony on July 23, 2022.

The Basilica Cistern is open to visitors every day of the week.

Those who want to see the renovated version of the building can visit between the following hours;

  • Winter Period: 09:00 - 17:30
  • Summer Period: 09:00 - 18:30

Basilica Cistern Entrance Fee

As of 2022, the Basilica Cistern entrance fees are as follows;

  • Domestic Visitor Entry Fee: 50 TL
  • Foreign Visitor Entry Fee: 190 TL

Who Built the Basilica Cistern

The structure was built by the Byzantine Emperor "Justinian I" in the 6th century. Reflecting the features of the Eastern Roman architectural style, the building became a water distribution center for Sarayburnu after the Conquest of Istanbul.

Why was the Basilica Cistern Restored

The main reason for the restoration of the Basilica Cistern was the discovery that the cistern was unstable to the expected Istanbul earthquake.

During the restoration, strengthening works were carried out and the Basilica Cistern, which has been an important historical value from past to present, was made more durable. Iron tensioners with low durability were replaced with stainless steel and strengthened.

In the past, the cistern could be navigated through a 1500-year-old road that was eroded by dripping water. As a result of the restoration, a new steel road was built and attention was paid to ensure that this road was suitable for the ambiance prevailing in the building.

All of the polluted columns in the cistern were cleaned and restored to their new appearance on the first day.

The exit door, which was used in the past, was renewed by bringing it to a more suitable appearance for the building.

Medusa, which was planned separately from the rest of the cistern when it was built, was made a part of the cistern.

With the lighting, the environment inside the building became more magical.

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