Inside of Basilica Cistern

  • What's Inside the Basilica Cistern?

Under the busy streets of Istanbul, in a place called the Basilica Cistern, is a secret world from ancient times.

The Basilica Cistern, also called the Yerebatan Sarnıcı, is a water reservoir beneath the ground in Istanbul, Turkey. In the sixth century, Emperor Justinian I of the Byzantine Empire constructed it.
The tank inside can hold 80,000 cubic metres of water, making it one of the largest and most amazing cisterns in the world.

What's inside the Basilica Cistern, you may wonder? When you go, you can see some of the following:

Columns of Basilica Cistern

336 Columns

The cistern of the Basilica is held up by 336 columns inside, each of which is 9 metres in height. The columns are composed of white marble and are adorned with reliefs of the heads of Medusa and other figures from mythology.

Contemporary Sculptures

Contemporary Sculptures

Modern sculptures have been set up inside the Basilica Cistern recently. These sculptures were added for revival. The sculptures by Turkish and foreign artists include a variety of styles and subjects.

The Column of Tears in Basilica Cistern

The Column of Tears

Located on the northwest corner inside the cistern, it might be crying. Beginning in the 16th century, slaves cried in the dark, wet space that led to the column for those who died while construction. Although there is no scientific evidence, the column is still a famous tourist attraction because many believe it is weeping tears.

The Medusa Heads

The Medusa Heads

The bottoms of two of the columns inside the cistern have been sculpted to seem like the heads of Medusas. It is widely believed that those skulls were used as apotropaic weapons for the purpose of avoiding off evil spirits in the past. Both of the strange heads are located on the side of the cistern that faces north-northwest.

The Reflections

The Reflections

The water inside the cistern is quite calm, which results in the creation of stunning reflections of the ceiling and the columns. This is one of the items that draws the greatest attention among visitors inside the Basilica Cistern.

The Ghosts

The Ghosts

According to a local urban myth, the cistern is said to be haunted by the ghosts of two different Medusa heads. Despite the fact that it is believed by a significant number of people, this urban legend is not supported by any evidence.


Getting There
Basilica Cistern Tickets & Tour Prices



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