Going Under in Istanbul

I have shared in other posts about the incredible Hagia Sophia, Topkapı Palace, and the beautiful mosques of Istanbul – definite must-sees in that great city.  But be aware, right under your feet could be some of the remnants of good ole Roman engineering:  the cisterns of Istanbul.

Old cities tend to have lots of hidden secrets.  Many of them are hidden simply because they are underground.  Istanbul is no different except most cities’ hidden structures are not even close to being around 1,500 years old.  Istanbul’s cisterns are.  The best known and largest of the underground cisterns in Istanbul is called the Basilica Cistern because a basilica had stood at that location.  The cisterns in Istanbul are part of a system that brings water from outside the city via aqueducts – all evidence of the well-known Roman engineering.

Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, cistern, Basilica Cistern, columns, architecture, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

The Basilica Cistern

The Basilica Cistern is not far from the Hagia Sophia and is well worth a visit.  I felt like I had walked into a flooded underground church.  The cisterns used to be visited by boat but at some point, platforms were built for the visitors to explore them.  Most of the materials used in the cistern, including the 300-odd columns holding up the ceiling, were re-used from structures elsewhere.  That includes the bases of two columns carved with the image of Medusa.  Of course, everyone knows not to look at Medusa in the eyes so the builders placed the bases sideways or upside down to protect innocent visitors who may dare gaze into her eyes…

Istanbul, Turkey, Turkiye, Turquia, cistern, Basilica Cistern, Medusa, architecture, travel, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

I rotated this photo so you wouldn’t have to rotate your device 🙂



  1. I loved visiting this place but it was so hard to take good photos. The only one that turned out was of the large fish!!
    Natalie recently posted..Facts About Turkey That You Never KnewMy Profile

    • I agree, Natalie. I didn’t have the best camera – nor the skills! – for photos in a dark place. Nevertheless, I am pleased that I got a couple of good enough shots!

  2. Hi Raul,
    This is a fascinating look at the world beneath our feet! Yes indeed — those Romans! It’s amazing to think those columns have held up all these years despite being immersed in water. Really, really cool.
    I am headed to Turkey next month for the first time and am looking forward to discovering the cisterns.
    Josie recently posted..Don’t Ignore This One Action if You Want to House SitMy Profile

  3. I don’t understand engineering now and I definitely can’t get how they did so long ago. Having a world beneath our feet, and the transport of water, blows my mind as simple as it might seem. I think we take these architectural and engineering marvels for granted sometimes.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted..Taos Pueblo: An Awe-Inspiring PeopleMy Profile

  4. I love visiting ruins, and it’s especially interesting to visit ruins that are hidden in a modern city. Not all ancient cities are in the middle of the jungle! Thank you for rotating the image of Medusa, probably her powers don’t work through the internet because I feel fine right now. 🙂
    Heather recently posted..Welcome to Halloween in Canada!My Profile

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