Around the time I was starting to get embarrassed for not having visited the Basilica Cistern yet, a friend of mine told me it was nothing special. “Just a small basement with lit columns and some fish.” So I waited for my parents to visit me before I went there.
And as soon as went down the stairs I was sold – and realised just how wrong my friend was.
I have to say it is probably one of my (and my whole family) favourite monuments in Istanbul. The uncanny history of the place makes it only the more interesting.
The Cistern was built to store water brought all the way from the black see. It was then completely forgotten shortly after the conquest of the then Constantinople. In the late eighteen hundreds an archeologist, searching for ancient artifacts, heard about this mysterious water source that came from the basements of people in a specific neighborhood. Some of them were even able to fish from their basements. Very curious about this he searched around and finally found the Cistern by using the basement of one of this people.
Even after this amazing finding, this place didn’t actually got the attention it deserved, being used for trash and even bodies for years. In the 60’s they finally started to restore it.
The Basilica is simply beautiful. While it is very hard to photograph it properly I still think that my pictures are better than anything I might say to describe it.
I’ll only say this – if you are in Istanbul don’t miss it!