The Basilica Cistern In Istanbul – A Spectacular Byzantine Legacy
While everyone has their own personal tastes, nobody can deny the fact that the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul is one of Turkey’s most fascinating attractions. Visit this absolutely breathtaking attraction with one of our fully customizable private Egypt and Turkey Tours.
Turkey must surely be one of the most fascinating countries to visit. It quite literally has everything a tourist could possibly want. From luxurious modern day beach resorts to quaint little seaside bungalows; from ultra modern architecture, to some of the world’s most famous historical relics. Turkey really is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered, and the Basilica Cistern is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Turkey.
Turkey And Its Many Cisterns
One of the things which have made Turkey such an interesting destination, are the many ancient cisterns which are buried beneath modern day Istanbul. In fact, the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul continues to attract a record number of tourists year after year, and once you have visited this particular cistern, it’s easy to see what the attraction is.
Basilica Cistern in Istanbul
The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul is just one of many cisterns which were constructed beneath Constantinople, or Istanbul as it is known today. What makes it unique is the fact that it’s the biggest cistern in the region.
The Basilica Cistern was originally constructed during the reign of Justinian, a prominent Byzantine Emperor. Based on current records, the area which houses the cistern was first home to an imposing Basilica that included lush gardens and an impressive colonnade.
Records also suggest that an estimated 7,000 slaves were used to build the cistern which later replaced the original Basilica. In fact, one of the support pillars within the cistern which can still be viewed to this day is decorated with various images, including an image of an eye with tears. Historians believe the tears were included as a tribute to the many slaves that perished during the construction of the cistern.
Covering an area of 105,000 square feet, the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul was capable of holding around a quarter of a million square cubic feet of water, or 100,000 tons of water; a valuable resource at the time.
Even if you don’t see the Basilica Cistern featured in all of our Egypt and Turkey tour packages, we can add it to any one of our tour itineraries. All of our tours are fully customizable and can be tailored to meet your exact needs.
Entering Into The Cistern
One of the most striking things about the cistern is that it was constructed largely of recycled materials, probably brought in from all over the Kingdom. Entrance to the cistern is by way of a stairway consisting of 52 steps, and the cistern itself it enclosed with a firebrick wall.
Another fascinating feature of the cistern is its elaborately curved roof, which together with the numerous support columns, helps to support the weight of all the earth above it.
Maintenance And Refurbishment
As is to be expected, the structural integrity of the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul has been in jeopardy several times due to the natural aging process. As a result, the cistern has been repaired and restored several times.
The first major restoration took place in 1723, followed by another major restoration which was ongoing from 1876 until 1909. Several other restoration projects took place during the years that followed, but the next major restoration happened in 1985.
Mud Removal And The Arrival Of Tourist Platforms
In 1985 the Istanbul Metropolitan Museum successfully removed an estimated 50,000 tons of mud, and invested a considerable amount of money into the construction of raised platforms which replaced the boats on which early tourists had to rely.
The Basilica Cistern in Istanbul as it stands today has been open to the public since 1987, although it did close temporarily in order to undergo another major cleanup operation in 1995.
From Russia With Love
Yes, James Bond has also visited the infamous Basilica Cistern in Istanbul during the filming of the 1963 movie: “From Russia With Love”. Whether the location had anything to do with it or not, the movie was a major success at the time.
If there is only one historical site in Turkey you really must see, it is without a doubt the Basilica Cistern in Istanbul. You can book you dream holiday right now by visiting our Egypt and Turkey tours. If you don’t see a tour you like, let us know, and we’ll tailor one just for you.