Where is the basilica cistern in istanbul? What is the history of basilica cistern? Where is the yerebatan sarnıcı?
Basilica Cistern, which is also known as “Sunken Palace,” was built by Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (527-565) to supply the water need of the palace. It is estimated that the cistern, which looks like a forest of columns with its 336 columns each one of which is 9-meter tall, was built in 540s. The area of the cistern lies over 9,800 square meters and it can hold 100,000 tons of water.
The sculpture of Medusa located in the northwest corner of the cistern attracts the attention of visitors. A tale about this is narrated in Greek mythology:
Medusa was a young girl who is proud of her black eyes, long hairs, and her beauty. She was in love with Perseus the son of Zeus. Yet, Athena was in love with Perseus at the same time, and she was jealous of Medusa. Hence, Athena cursed Medusa, and transformed her black hair to serpents. From then on, to whomever Medusa looked at, he/she turned into stone. Then Perseus saw her and understood that she was cursed, and beheaded her. He won many wars by holding Medusa head in his hands and turning his enemies into stones. It is narrated that upside down or sideway picture of Medusa started to be engraved on ancient Byzantine sword hilts and pedestals after this incident.
The cistern was restored for the first time in Ottoman Era at the time of Sultan Ahmed III, then during the time of Sultan Abdulhamit II. The cistern which was cleaned by Municipality of Istanbul in 1987 was opened to visits by addition of a walking platform.
Basilica cistern can be visited every weekday between 09.00 am – 17.00 pm.