Basilica Cistern is among the most visited museums in Istanbul. In this article, you can find updated information about the Basilica Cistern entrance fee and opening hours. In addition, the history of the Basilica Cistern is also briefly noted.
During the high tourist season, it is possible to enter the Basilica Cistern with online tickets. You can join the guided Basilica Cistern tour by purchasing a ticket from the link at the end of the article. These skip-the-line tickets give you fast access to the museum and can be canceled up to 24 hours before the event.
Byzantine Cisterns in Istanbul
There are hundreds of Byzantine cisterns in the Old City of Istanbul. 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, had been under siege many times in history. The city, which had the most powerful city walls of the Middle Ages, succeeded in lifting the siege each time. In military history, these walls are called Theodosian Walls.
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.
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. Theodosius Cistern serves as a museum with the name of Serefiye Sarnici.
Apart from these two, there is another cistern called Cistern of Philoxenos. Although his condition is very good, it is not open to visitors for now. However, sometimes it is opened for special events.
History of The Basilica Cistern
The history of the Basilica Cistern goes back 1500 years, when the Byzantine Empire was at the height of its power. It 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.
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.
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 is located in Sultanahmet, the touristic center of Istanbul. It is only a few minutes walk from Hagia Sophia. The name of the Basilica Cistern in the local language is called “Yerebatan Sarnici” and gave its name to the street where it is located. Therefore, it is located at the entrance of Yerebatan Street.
If you want to learn more about places to visit in Istanbul, I can recommend you a useful blog post. Thanks to the maps and information in Istanbul Maps article, you can easily find the places you will visit during your Istanbul trip.
Basilica Cistern Entrance Fee 2021
Basilica Cistern entrance fee is 30 Turkish Lira as of 2021. 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 2021
Basilica Cistern opening hours are between 09:00 in the morning and 17:30 in the evening. The closing hours of the cistern are extended until 18:30 in the summer. The Basilica Cistern is open to visitors every day throughout the year.
Buy Basilica Cistern Tickets Online
You can buy your online tickets for the Basilica Cistern from the link below. These tickets are slightly more expensive than regular entrance 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 Entrance Tickets from here which is really reasonable! These fast entry tickets are sold under the guarantee of GetYourGuide, an international company. Easy cancellation with a FULL REFUND up to 24 hours in advance.
Basilica Cistern Entrance Fee & Hours 2020 and 2021