Yerebatan Sarnıçı

Yerebatan Sarayı - Yerebatan Cistern - Cistern Basilica - Basilica Cistern


Useful Information

photography
Cistern Basilica, Turkey. Public Domain.
photography
Cistern Basilica, Turkey. Public Domain.
Location: Istanbul. At Sultanahmet Square, opposite to the entrance of Aya Sofya. Entrance is a small inconspicuous building of white and red bricks.
Open: Summer daily 9-18:30.
Winter daily 9-17:30.
[2019]
Fee: Turks TRL 10, Foreign Tourists TRL 20, Student TRL 5.
[2019]
Classification: SubterraneaCistern
Light: electric
Dimension: L=140m, W=70m, H=8m, V=80,000m³.
Guided tours: self guided
Photography:
Accessibility:
Bibliography:
Address: Yerebatan Sarayı, Yerebatan Caddesi No: 13, 34410 Sultanahmet-Fatih, Istanbul, Tel: +90-212-5121570, Tel: +90-212-5221259, Fax: +90-212-5228166. E-mail: contact
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

532 built under emperor Justinian.
1966 used as a location in the James Bond movie From Russia With Love.
1987 opened to the public.

Description

photography
Cistern Basilica, Turkey. Public Domain.
photography
Cistern Basilica, Turkey. Public Domain.

The Yerebatan Sarnıçı is a large underground water reservoir. It was built around 532, to supply Byzanz with fresh water, especially the palace of emperor Justinian nearby. The huge hall is 140m long and 70m wide, with 336 pillars with corinthian capitals supporting the 8m high ceiling. The floor is completely covered by water, the cistern contains up to 80,000m³ of water. It was connected with a 250km long system of canals, tunnels and aqueducts. The water originated from the Belgrade forest, the highland west of Marmara, and was transported via the Aqueduct of Valens.

Yerebatan Sarnıçı means Basilica Cistern, but it is also called Yerebatan Sarayı, which means Basilica Palace. A very common name is also Cistern Basilica, mainly used in foreign guidebooks. All those names imply the overwhelming architecture of this functional building. Fine stonework, garnishments, ornaments and even huge heads cover the whole cistern. There are Ionic, Corinthian, and a couple Doric pillars, with no two alike. The head of Medusa, which is upside down, supports one of the pillars. Some say it was placed here to guard against the palaces' water supply being poisoned. More like the stone was just recycled.

With its enormous size and the fascinating water surface, it is probably the most impressing sight in Istanbul. The uniqueness of this place was recognized by the location scouts of James Bond. This place was used in the movie From Russia With Love. James Bond and his Istanbul contact person Selim Bey go through the cistern to the russian embassy, to use a submarine periscope to have a look into the embassy. And of course there is an exchange of gunfire underground.

When visiting the the Cistern Basilika we recommend a Turkish coffee in the underground cafe by candlelight. Definitely a good place for a secret romantic liaison.