Photographer's Note

Basilica Cistern

Located diagonally across the street from the great Hagia Sophia cathedral, you will find the Basilica Cistern, largest surviving Byzantine cistern in Istanbul, also known as the "Sunken Palace." Not a palace at all, it is actually an enormous water storage tank. During the Byzantine period, eighteen of them were built as part of a huge interconnecting water network.

Constructed by Emperor Justinian the Great in the sixth century to sustain part of the city during lengthy sieges, the water was actually pumped, then delivered through twelve miles of aqueducts, from a reservoir near the Black Sea.

One of the city's most haunting sites, this dimly-lit underground forest of 336 columns (two have Medusa heads as bases) once held as much as 80,000 cubic metres of water in a space 77 yards wide by 155 yards long. After it ceased being used for its water supply it became a dumping ground for all manner of debris, including corpses.

Today it has been completely renovated. Water still drips melancholically through the ceiling, and the herringbone brick-domed ceiling echoes classical music. At one time you could actually row a rented boat among the columns. Wonderfully eerie, it is of little surprise that the spot appeared in a memorable scene from the James Bond film From Russia with Love and Alfred Hitchcock once attempted to film a mystery there.

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Additional Photos by YILMAZ TUFAN (twofun) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 158 W: 95 N: 138] (1480)
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