The Basilica Cistern
Yerebatan Sarayi means “Underground palace”, because of the cistern was beneath the ground level it was called so. It was called Basilica cistern, because once there was a stoa basilica on the vicinity. The cistern constructed beneath the stoa and probably some of the material was taken from that stoa. The cistern was built by Justinian I in 532, to provide water to the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill. It is one the of largest cistern in historical peninsula. After the city was conquered by Mehmet II, cistern continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace gardens. This cistern is approximately 140 metres by 70 metres and capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres of water. The ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns. The water stored in the Cistern came from the Belgrade Forest distributed via the Valens aqueducts.
In 1980’s the cistern was renovated by Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and a promenade platform was built in the cistern. During renovation time two Medusa heads were revealed. It is not known exactly when or why the Medusa heads were brought to the cistern. Today the cistern is used one of the most important art and cultural centers of Istanbul.
The cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love.
Basilica Cistern on Google Maps