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The Basilica Cistern of Istanbul : Ancient Dark Wet Mysterious

It is a Byzantine cistern from the 6th century and it is located at Sultanahmet Square Istanbul... in walking distance to HAGIA SOPHIA MUSEUM and BLUE MOSQUE(Sultanahmet Camii). Turks call 'Yerebatan Sarayi'(The Sunken Palace). Well, however it is not a palace at all... it is an huge water storage place.


This cistern has fine brick vaulting supported by 336 Corinthian columns. It is the largest covered cistern in Istanbul, dating back to the Roman times. Its dimensions are 140 by 70 meters, and it is capable of holding 80.000 cubic meters of water.

The Basilica Cistern was actually the reservoir for the prodigious quantity of water required for the Byzantine Great Palace, and it is thought to date back to the reign of Justinian in 532. Later in Ottoman years it has been use for conception of complex of Topkapi Palace.

Cistern has a huge structure, measuring 140m (460ft) long and 70m (230ft) across, and it is virtually empty; only a couple of feet of water line the bottom. Some wooden walkways have been constructed for visitors. The atmosphere inside is so quite and beautiful. Also it is very nice place for cooling down after being outside for a hot summer day :)

This fabulous cistern was used for entertainment purpose in earlier years as a film set of the movie 'From Russia With Love', with actor James Bond.

In the cistern the light and music is fantastic, don't miss to visit! Very nice classical music accompanies the sound of endlessly dripping water.

Speaking of the water; since offering water is considered as a good deed in the ISLAM religion, following the conquering of the city by the Ottomans, and during the restructuring of the city many fountains and water resources were built in the city. However, as the time passed by the majority were demolished and at the present day there are approximately 500 fountains and 70 water resources.

One of the this fountain is Sultan Ahmet the 3rd Fountain (Sultan Ahmet Çesmesi) which is located just in front of the Topkapi Palace. It was built in 1729.

The fountain has a spout on each of its four sides. This is a free-standing fountain with a beautiful roof which is inside is adorned with reliefs and inscriptions and surmounted by decorated golden leaves. Actually fountain is dry.


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