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Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern ( ), is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbulmarker (formerly Constantinoplemarker), Turkeymarker. The cistern, located west of the Hagia Sophiamarker on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.


The second Medusa head pillar
This name of this subterranean structure derives from a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople, the Stoa Basilica, beneath which it was constructed. According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine constructed a structure which was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532. It provided water for the Great Palace of Constantinoplemarker and other buildings on the First Hill, and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palacemarker after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

Measurements and data

This cathedral-sized cistern is an underground chamber of by . It covers an area of and is capable of holding of water. The ceiling is held up by a forest of 336 marble columns, each high. The columns are arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each, spaced apart. The capitals of the columns are mainly Ionic and Corinthian styles, with the exception of a few Doric style with no engravings.

The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of and coated with a special mortar for waterproofing. The cistern's water was provided from the Belgrade Woods—which lie north of the city—via aqueducts built by the Emperor Justinian.

The cracks and the columns were repaired in 1968. Having been restored in 1985 by the Istanbul Metropolitan Museum, the cistern was once again opened to the public on 9 September, 1987. It is a popular tourist attraction.

Medusa column bases

The sideways Medusa, rotated 90 degrees.
Located in the northwest corner of the cistern, the bases of two columns reuse blocks carved with the visage of Medusa. The origin of the two heads is unknown, though it is thought that the heads were brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons' gaze.

In media

The cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love. In the film, it is referred to as being constructed by the Emperor Constantine, with no reference to Justinian. Its location is a considerable distance from the Sovietmarker (now Russian) consulate, which is located in Beyoğlumarker, the newer "European" section of Istanbul, on the other side of the Golden Hornmarker.

The finale of the 2009 film The International takes place in a fantasy amalgam of the Old City, depicting the Basilica Cistern as laying beneath the Sultan Ahmed Mosquemarker -which, in the film, is directly adjacent to the Süleymaniye Mosquemarker.


Image:Basilica Cistern.jpg|The entrance to the Basilica CisternImage:Yerebatan.jpg|Another view of the forest of columnsImage:Head of Medusa, Basilica Cistern, Constantinople 01.jpg|Column with Medusa baseImage:Head of Medusa, Basilica Cistern, Constantinople 02.jpg|Another column with Medusa baseImage:Basilica Cistern Constantinople 2007.jpg|"Peacock-eyed" columnImage:Carp at the Basilica Cistern, Istanbul 2007.JPG|Carp in the CisternImage:CisternCafe.jpg|The Cistern CafeFile:Basilica cistern istanbul mirror.jpg|The ceiling of the Basilica Cistern reflected in the still waters

See also

External links

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