Basilica Cistern: After a five-year makeover, stunning ancient water underworld reopens in Istanbul
The huge ancient Basilica Cistern (or Cisterna Basilica) under the city of Istanbul has reopened after a five-year makeover. It was built for the capital of his Eastern Roman Empire.
Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the popular Turkish city, Istanbul. The stunning makeover has made this site into a gorgeous haven of underground sound and light.
The Basilica Cistern was built in AD 542 during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. As far as the location is concerned, it is 150 metres southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu. Now, it is kept with little water so that the public can access it from the inside.
Historians have said that it was once part of a network of more than 100 cisterns started by the Romans. They were later completed by the Byzantines and Ottomans. These systems were made to supply the city and its palaces with running water.
Because of its location under a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople, the Stoa Basilica, it was called Basilica. During the Early Roman Age, a great Basilica used to stand in its place. It was said to be built between the 3rd and 4th centuries.
If claims are to be believed, around 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern.
Historians have claimed tha the basilica contained gardens, surrounded by a colonnade and facing the Hagia Sophia.
The site was partially closed for restoration in 2017. There were fears the basilica could crumble in case even the slightest tremors of an earthquake were to jolt Istanbul. It has undergone several restorations since its foundation.
Aysen Kaya, deputy head of the municipality's heritage department, said, "By scraping off the added layers of cement, we brought the bricks up to date." Kaya also pointed out that two pipes were exposed by the latest work: one which brought water.
The Basilica Cistern could store nearly 80,000 litres (21,000 gallons) of water. The feat helped protect the Byzantines from summer drought.