Basilica Cistern
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 500 feet (150 m) southwest of the Hagia Sophia on the historical peninsula of Sarayburnu, was built in the 6th century during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Justinian I.

History
The name of this subterranean structure derives from a large public square on the First Hill of Constantinople, the Stoa Basilica, beneath which it was originally constructed. Before being converted to a cistern, a great Basilica stood in its place, built between the 3rd and 4th centuries during the Early Roman Age as a commercial, legal and artistic center. The basilica was reconstructed by Ilius after a fire in 476. Ancient texts indicated that the basilica contained gardens, surrounded by a colonnade and facing Hagia Sophia According to ancient historians, Emperor Constantine constructed a structure which was later rebuilt and enlarged by Emperor Justinian after the Nika riots of 532, which devastated the city. Historical texts claim that 7,000 slaves were involved in the construction of the cistern. The enlarged cistern provided a water filtration system 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.

Measurements and data
This cathedral-sized cistern is an underground chamber approximately 138 metres (453 ft) by 64.6 metres (212 ft) - about 9,800 square metres (105,000 sq ft) in area - capable of holding 80,000 cubic metres (2,800,000 cu ft) of water. The ceiling is supported by a forest of 336 marble columns, each 9 metres (30 ft) high, arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns each 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. One of the columns is engraved with raised pictures of a Hen's Eye, slanted braches, and tears. This column resembles the columns in the Triumphal Arch of Great Theodesius from the 4th century (379-395), erected in the 'Farum Tauri' Square during the Byzantine Empire. Ancient texts suggest that the tears on the column pay tribute to the hundreds of slaves who died during the construction of the Basilica Cistern. The majority of the columns in the cistern appear to have been relocated from older buildings, likely brought to Constantinople from various parts of the empire, together with those that were used in the construction of Hagia Sophia. They are carved and engraved out of various types of marble and granite. 52 stone steps descend into the entrance of the cistern. The cistern is surrounded by a firebrick wall with a thickness of 4 metres (13 ft) and coated with a waterproofing mortar. The Basilica Cistern's water came from the EÄŸrikapı Water Distribution Center in the Belgrade Forest;which lie 19 kilometres (12 mi) north of the city. It traveled through the 971 metres (3,186 ft)-long Valens (BozdoÄŸan) Aqueduct, and the 115.45 metres (378.8 ft)-long MaÄŸlova Aqueduct, which was built by the Emperor Justinianus. The cistern has the capacity to store 100,000 tons of water, despite being virtually empty today with only a few feet of water lining the bottom. The weight of the cistern lies on the columns by mean of the cross-shaped vaults and round arches of its roof. The Basilica Cistern has undergone several restorations since its foundation. The first of the repairs were carried out twice during the Ottoman State in the 18th century during the reign of Ahmed III in 1723 by architect Muhammad Agha of Kayseri. The second major repair was completed during the 19th century during the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II (1876”“1909). Cracks to masonry and damaged columns were repaired in 1968, with additional restoration in 1985 by the Istanbul Metropolitan Museum. During the 1985 restoration, 50,000 tons of mud were removed from the cisterns, and a platforms built throughout to replace the boats once used to tour the cistern. The cistern was opened to the public in its current condition on 9 September 1987. In May 1994 the cistern underwent additional cleaning.

Medusa column bases
Located in the northwest corner of the cistern, the bases of two columns reuse blocks carved with the visage of Medusa. The origin of the two heads is unknown, though it is thought that the heads were brought to the cistern after being removed from a building of the late Roman period. There is no written evidence that suggests they were used as column pedestals previously. Tradition has it that the blocks are oriented sideways and inverted in order to negate the power of the Gorgons' gaze, however it is widely thought that they were placed sideways and upside down only to be the proper size to support their columns. According to popular myth, Medusa was one of the three Gorgons, the terrifying female creatures from Greek Mythology. Legend has it that Medusa, with her hair of snakes could turn anyone who looked at her into stone, and therefore images of Gorgons were used to protect great buildings. Another version of the story claims that Medusa was the only mortal Gorgon, a beautiful girl with long hair and dark eyes who had long been in love with Perseus, the son of Zeus. Athene, also in love with Perseus, turned Medusa's hair into snakes in a jealous rage. From then on, every person Medusa looked at was petrified. After learning of Medusa's curse, Perseus beheaded her, taking her head to war with him and turning his enemies into stone. It is said that many Byzantium era sword handles and columns were engraved with her head upside down.

In media
The cistern was used as a location for the 1963 James Bond film From Russia with Love . In the film, it is referred to as being constructed by the Emperor Constantine, with no reference to Justinian. Its location is a considerable distance from the Soviet (now Russian) consulate, which is located in BeyoÄŸlu, the "newer" European section of Istanbul, on the other side of the Golden Horn. The finale of the 2009 film The International takes place in a fantasy amalgam of the Old City, depicting the Basilica Cistern as lying beneath the Sultan Ahmed Mosque -which, in the film, is directly adjacent to the Süleymaniye Mosque.

Building Activity

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