Basilica Cistern is located on the European side of Istanbul, in Sultan Ahmed district and close to Hagia Sophia mosque. It was built in 532 AD during the reign of Emperor Justinian I for preserving fresh water. The complex consists of 336 nine-meter columns, in twelve rows of 28 columns.
By the end of the path you take within the Cistern, you will see two columns. The bases of two columns reuse blocks carved with the visage of Medusa which refers back to the Roman Empire. Many believe that the heads were curved only to support the columns. But tradition has it that they are Medusa heads (a Greek goddess who lived under the ground). Medusa was a beautiful woman whom Poseidon (god of ocean) fell in love with. When Poseidon sleeps with her in the temple of Athena, the angry Athena makes Medusa’s face ugly and turns her hair into snakes. It was believed that Medusa’s glance can turn people into stone; hence they would use Gurgaon sculptures and paintings to protect large buildings and special places. It is said that Medusa heads were curved to protect the Cistern. In the middle of this cistern there are columns called Hen’s Eye with tears curved on them. It is said that the tears pay tribute to the hundreds of slaves who died during the construction of the Basilica Cistern.
You can also visit Hagia Sophia and Sultan Ahmed mosques which are nearby.
How to get to Basilica Cistern from Taksim?
Take the Funicular from Taksim and get off on Kabatas station. Take the train from there and get off on Sultan Ahmed station.