6 cisterns that shed light on the city’s mystery

Home » 6 cisterns that shed light on the city’s mystery
6 cisterns that shed light on the city’s mystery

Echoes of thousands of years of heritage are heard for the first time from underground. Istanbul’s famous underground cisterns also carry traces of historical heritage to the present day. Underground cisterns, which highlight the mystery of Istanbul, were built in ancient times to meet the water needs of the era. It is known that the number of water cisterns, which are among the cultural treasures of this ancient city dating back thousands of years, has reached 100 cisterns. While some of these cisterns are open to active visits, most are closed to visitors and restoration is ongoing. We have compiled 6 cisterns that reflect the mysterious underground world of Istanbul for you. What do the cisterns of Istanbul tell us? What are the cisterns that have been restored in Istanbul? How many cisterns are there in the city? Let’s explore the details together.

1. The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern, which tops our list, has been reopened to visitors in the past months after a long restoration process. The magnificent cistern, which has been awash with visitors since its opening, is one of the city’s most important cultural assets. This magnificent underground cistern, built by the Eastern Roman Emperor Justinian I (527-565), is also called the “palace basilica” among the people because of the marble columns that rise out of the water and seem to be countless.

Some call it the “Basilica Cistern” because the Church of Stoa was located in the place where the structure called “Basilica Cistern” in Latin is located. The largest enclosed cistern in the city with a water storage capacity of 80,000 tons, the Basilica Cistern attracts attention with its more recycled load-bearing elements than other closed cistern, and presents a very impressive visual feast.

On the other hand, it covers an area of ​​nearly 1000m2; The huge rectangular building measuring 140 meters long and 70 meters wide testifies to a legend. The head of Medusa, the most important symbol of the Church, is the main character of this myth. Among the legends of Medusa’s heads, which are among the most special examples of Roman sculpture and which greatly attract the interest of visitors, are the following:

Medusa. She is a girl who prides herself on her black eyes, long hair, and beautiful body. Medusa loves Perseus, son of Zeus. On the other hand, Athena also loves Perseus and is jealous of Medusa. That is why Athena turns Medusa’s hair into a snake. Rumor has it that everyone Medusa looks at will turn to stone. Later, Perseus beheaded Medusa and using her power, she was able to defeat many of her enemies.

2. Binbirdirek Cistern

We continue our list with the famous Binbirdirek Cistern. Reservoir 64m x 56m, total 3584m2 It is the second largest water cistern in Istanbul after the Basilica Cistern with its size and 224 columns. Byzantine records indicate that this work was made in the fourth century. The cistern, called Philoksenos Cistern because it was built by Philoksenos, the Roman senator for the Byzantine Emperor Constantine, was used as a storage after the 16th century, as the water in the cistern dried up over time.

The historical tank mostly consists of columns placed on top of each other and connected to each other by pyramidal capitals without inscriptions. The walls of the building are of thick brick vaults.

The columns in the cistern are of two superimposed bodies, with truncated pyramidal capitals above which there is no inscription. It is recorded that the Greek letters inscribed on the bodies of the columns are the marks of the stone masons who worked on building the cistern and worked on the columns.

The reservoir is located west of the hippodrome. Today, the reservoir, connected to a gallery, consists of small vending departments, cafes and exhibition areas. The hollow section was arranged in the middle of the cistern, where the original height of the columns can be seen, during the restoration.

3. Veldamy Reservoir

Located in Osmaniye Veliefendi, Fildamı is one of the four large open cisterns of Byzantine Istanbul. Although it is not known exactly where the name Fildamı came from, it was the golden age of Byzantium V-VI. It is estimated that it was built over the centuries.

The idea that such a name was given to the reservoir due to the fact that army and palace elephants were housed in this reservoir in the later periods of Byzantium is accepted as the closest rumor to the truth. The walls of the cistern, together with the niches, are 7 meters thick and 11 meters high. The walls are built from bottom to top with 7 rows of stone and 7 rows of bricks as belt.

Brick belts are built of five rows of bricks. In the Ottoman era, we talked about the idea that elephants belonging to the army and the palace used to live in this reservoir. It is known that the Fildamı Cistern, 127.00m x 76.00m long, which is the most prominent and powerful example of Byzantine open cisterns, supplied water to the Magnaura and Gokundiana palaces in Bakirkoy.

4. Aetius Cistern

Istanbul cisterns

One of the mysterious cisterns in Istanbul, the Aetios Cistern, served as an important water reservoir in Istanbul during the Byzantine period. This historic site, which was once one of the largest Byzantine cisterns, is now used as a football stadium. It has been known as “Karagumruk Stadium” or “FIFA Stadium” since 1928. When it was active, the cistern was an open-air cistern with impressive dimensions of 244 meters in length, 85 meters in width and 14 meters in depth. The Aetius Cistern, as it was known, could have easily surrounded four American football fields at 20,81028096 square metres.

The design of the large cistern, which is surrounded by walls and is located in the Fatih area today, dates back to the first half of the 5th century AD, the second emperor. It is estimated that it belongs to the reign of Theodosius.

The Aetios Cistern was designed parallel to the main corridor of the city in order to adapt to the environment. The reservoir also provides water from the 971-meter-long Roman water transportation system, the Bozdoğan Aqueduct, built in the 4th century AD. The historic building has a capacity of 66 to 79 million gallons with its 5.20-foot-tall retaining walls.

5. Zerik Cistern

Istanbul cisterns

We continue our list with Zeyrek Cistern, the third largest cistern in Istanbul. A major restoration period is underway in order to bring the reservoir in for tourism. Zirk cistern, which survived the Byzantine era, was known as the cistern of Pantokrator Monastery. The impressive structure, which differs from other cisterns because it is partially located on the ground, was built by the second Byzantine emperor. It was built by Ioannes Komnenos.

The reservoir is also among the important relics of the historic peninsula. Zeyrek Reservoir, located on Ataturk Boulevard, continues unabated. Another name for the tank is known as Pantokrator. Zerk Cistern, one of the reservoirs that shed light on the underground mystery of the ancient city of Istanbul, is preparing to become the center of attention of domestic and foreign tourists.

6. Goodwill Cistern

Istanbul cisterns

We have come to the end of the list of Istanbul cisterns. The Sharifiye Cistern, one of the oldest water structures on Istanbul’s Historic Peninsula dating back nearly 1,600 years, is estimated to have been built during the reign of Theodosius II (408-450), although an inscription is inaccessible, based on on its architectural features.

Due to the insufficient water resources in Istanbul, the population density and the blockade, there is a need for water storage structures. While open and closed tanks were used as city water tanks for centuries. It is expected that the magnificent enclosed cisterns such as the Bonaparte and the Basilica supplied water mainly to the Baths of the Great Palace, the Nymphaeum and the Zeuksippos.

45 sail vaults and 32 columns stand out within the Sharifiya Cistern, which was built on an area of ​​approximately 24 meters by 40 meters and had a ceiling height of 11 meters. All the Corinthian capitals with rock blocks on them were prepared from Marmara Island marble, especially for the cistern. Headdresses are decorated with acanthus leaves (bear’s paw). The inner walls of the structure are covered with waterproof plaster and the corners are curved to withstand the water pressure. The impressive tank wall thickness is about 2.5 meters.


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