Basilica Cistern Museum
Basilica Cistern Entrance Fee, Tickets, Short History, Hours
There are hundreds of Byzantine cisterns under the Istanbul Historic Peninsula. If you look carefully, you will notice that there are cisterns with red brick ceilings visible even in Hagia Sophia Square or the second courtyard of Topkapi Palace.
Istanbul, formerly known as Constantinople, has been under siege many times in history. The city, which has the most powerful city walls of the Middle Ages, succeeded in lifting the siege each time.
However, it was not only the walls that were necessary during the sieges. it was very important to meet the water needs of the city people. Therefore, there are numerous cisterns under the historical peninsula of Istanbul.
Byzantine Cisterns in Istanbul
Today, two Byzantine cisterns are open to visitors as a museum in Sultanahmet. one is the famous Basilica Cistern, the other is the recently restored Theodosius Cistern (also known as Serefiye Sarnici).
Short History of Basilica Cistern
The Basilica Cistern was built in the 540s during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Justinian, who ruled the Byzantine Empire from 527 to 565, was also the ruler who built Hagia Sophia. He is considered the most important ruler of the Byzantine Empire, which survived for more than 1000 years.
The Basilica Cistern is really amazing in size. Built in 108 meters and 65 meters in size, the cistern is the largest cistern in Istanbul with an area of 9800 m2. Basilica Cistern was built to meet the water needs of the Great Palace of Byzantine Emperors.
Information about visiting the Basilica Cistern
Ancient Greek Columns of Basilica Cistern
Inside the cistern, there are 336 reused columns from various ancient Greek structures. When you look carefully at these columns, you will notice that they are not made for this cistern and are of different shapes and lengths.
These columns in the cistern are among the few works of art from the ancient Greek period of Istanbul. (pre-roman period where the city was known as Byzantium)
Story of Medusa Heads in the Cistern
As you move towards the bottom of the cistern, you will see that large stones are placed under the two very short columns for support. Medusa‘s face was engraved on these stones.
For the architects who built the cistern, the rocks of which medusa heads were engraved had no meaning. They told the workers to place the rocks under two columns shorter than the others. But in the 540s when the cistern was built, it had only been two centuries since Christianity had been accepted.
The figures in ancient Greek mythology still remained in the minds of people. The workers were afraid of Medusa, which turned everyone into stone. Therefore, they placed one of the Medusa heads on the side and one upside down.
A Brief History of Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern
Why is It Called Basilica Cistern
There are various rumors about where the Basilica Cistern got its name. The most accepted of these is that the cistern was named as the Basilica Cistern because it was built under the square called Stoa Basilica, an important square during the Byzantine period.
The basilica is the word for the court buildings in Roman times. However, since the Roman Empire abandoned Pagan religion from the time of Emperor Constantine and converted to Christianity; All the buildings that function as basilica were turned into churches.
The aim in doing this is to create a practical place of worship for the ever-increasing Christian community. Thus, for centuries, Church projects have always been drawn from the Basilica plan.
Where is the Cistern Located?
The Basilica Cistern, also known as Yerebatan Sarnici, is a 2-minute walk from Hagia Sophia. The Sultanahmet Tram Station is just a few minutes’ walk away from the cistern. Yerebatan Cistern gave its name to the street where it is located. Therefore, it is located at the entrance of Yerebatan Street.
Basilica Cistern Entrance Fee 2020
Basilica Cistern entrance fee is 20 Turkish Lira as of 2020. Children under the age of 7 free of charge. Please note that Istanbul Museum Pass is not valid for this place. Also credit card is not accepted. Make sure you have enough money to buy Basilica Cistern tickets in cash.
Basilica Cistern Opening Hours
Basilica Cistern is open from 09:00 am to 6:30 pm during the high season. High Season starts with 1st of April and lasts until 30th of October. The cistern is closed at 5:30 pm for the winter season.
Buy Basilica Cistern Tickets Online
In the summer season there are long queues at the entrance to the Basilica Cistern. Therefore, it is recommended to buy a skip the line ticket.
Online Basilica Cistern tickets sold by getyourguide are slightly more expensive than standard Basilica Cistern tickets. However, it provides guided tour service without waiting you in the queue for a long time.
You may browse Skip The Line Basilica Cistern Tickets from here which is really reasonable! Easy cancellation with a FULL REFUND up to 24 hours in advance.