Basilica Cistern: Unveiling an Ancient Marvel
The Basilica Cistern, also known as the “Yerebatan Sarnıcı” in Turkish, was built during the rule of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I in the 6th century. Its purpose was to provide a reliable water source for the Great Palace of Constantinople and nearby buildings. Its name comes from being located beneath the ancient Stoa Basilica.
Entering the Basilica Cistern feels like stepping into a completely different world. The underground chamber is vast and impressive, with 336 columns rising from the water below to support the arched ceiling. These columns were repurposed from various ancient ruins, each with its own unique style. Among them, there is a pair of columns called the “Medusa heads” that have intriguing carvings of Medusa at their bases, adding a sense of mystery to the cistern’s atmosphere.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the Basilica Cistern is the inclusion of two Medusa heads at the base of columns in the northwest corner. It is believed that these heads were brought from a building or temple of the Roman era, possibly to neutralize any negative effects associated with Medusa’s gaze. The exact origins of these captivating sculptures are still debated, adding to the mystique that surrounds the cistern.
The Basilica Cistern has also served as a backdrop for numerous movies and TV series, enhancing its allure. Notably, it appeared in the 1963 James Bond film “From Russia with Love” and the 2009 movie “Inferno,” based on Dan Brown’s novel. Its evocative atmosphere and magnificent architecture make it a captivating setting for storytellers to craft their narratives.
The Basilica Cistern is more than a historic structure; it’s a testament to the brilliance of the ancient world. Walking through its pathways, surrounded by calm waters and echoes of the past, evokes wonder. This underground treasure enchants visitors, revealing Istanbul’s rich cultural heritage. Don’t miss the chance to explore the Basilica Cistern, where history and wonders intertwine.