The Basilica Cistern, the largest of all cisterns in Istanbul, was constructed in 6th century during the most prosperous period of Byzantine Empire, the reign of Emperor Justinianus. Basilica is 70 mt. in width and 140 mt. in length, the dome, covering an area of 9,800 m2, is supported by 336 marble columns, arranged in 12 rows. The Cistern is surrounded by 4 mt. thick wall of brick and the mortar used in constructions is a special water-proof mix. The water reserved in the Basilica Cistern was transported from Belgrade Forest, which is 19 km. away from the city.
To enter Basilica, you need to go down 52 step stairs; there is a raised wooden path inside that you have to follow. You should check two mysterious Medusa heads used as pedestals at the bottom of the two columns in the northwestern corner. It is not known where are they removed or brought from or why one is upside down, other is sideways. There is a column in the center featuring teardrop design, you shouldn’t miss. A small cafe is located near the exit, a claustrophobic and weird place to have a tea or a Turkish coffee.
The Cistern is located on the Historic Peninsula, so close to main attractions as Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Blue mosque, and Hippodrome. In any case, you will pass by, so why not give a chance?
Final part of Dan Brown’s novel, Inferno(2013) took place at Basilica Cistern.