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The Basilica Cistern (Turkish: Yerebatan Sarayı - "Sunken Palace", or Yerebatan Sarnıcı - "Sunken Cistern"), is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul (formerly Constantinople), Turkey. The cistern, located South West of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

This underground structure was known as the “Basilica Cistern” as its was built underneath the Stoa Basilica, a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople. According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine had already constructed a structure, which was rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532. It provided water for the Great Palace of Constantinople and other buildings on the First Hill, and continued to provide water to the Topkapi Palace after the Ottoman conquest in 1453 and into modern times.

This cathedral-sized cistern is an underground chamber of 143 metres (470 ft) by 65 metres (210 ft), capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres (2,800,000 cu ft) of water, and covering an area of 9,800 square metres (105,000 sq ft). The large space is broken up by a forest of 336 marble columns each 9 metres (30 ft) high. The columns are arranged in 12 rows each consisting of 28 columns, spaced 4.9 metres (16 ft) apart. The capitals of the columns are mainly Ionic and Corinthian styles, with the exception of a few Doric style with no engravings.

The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of 4 metres (13 ft) and coated with a special mortar for waterproofing. The cistern's water was provided from the Belgrade Woods—which lie 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city—via aqueducts built by the Emperor Justinian.

The cracks and the columns were repaired in 1968. Having been restored in 1985 by the Istanbul Metropolitan Museum, the cistern was once again opened to the public on 9 September 1987. It is a popular tourist attraction.

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Viewed: 1985
Points: 19
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Additional Photos by Manuel Mayorga (ManuMay) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2467 W: 253 N: 4601] (36447)
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