Columns of Basilica Cistern, Istanbul

Illustration

Rome and Byzantium
by Hagia Sophia Research Team
published on 24 January 2018

Located across the Hagia Sophia Museum, Yerebatan Sarayi is also known as the Basilica Cistern because of a basilica that was once located nearby as a cultural centre. It is the largest surviving underground cistern of Istanbul. Fatih Cistern, St. Sophia Cistern and Theodosius Cistern are some of the 80 cisterns that supplied water in Constantinople.

Basilica Cistern was repaired by Justinian in the 6th century CE and came to its current state after a fire in the Nika Riot. Before that, it’s believed that it had a porticoed courtyard with marble columns. The cistern was used to supply water which was carried from the Belgrade forest via the Valence Aqueduct. The water was used for the Great Palace, especially during summer time, then the Ottomans used it for the Topkapi Palace.

Basilica cistern has 336 columns laid out in 12 rows of 28. They are made of marble and granite, most of which are Corinthian style. Some of the columns are believed to have been taken from the Forum of Theodosius.

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