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THE HISTORY OF THE BASILICA CISTERN

One of the magnificent historical constructions of Istanbul is the Basilica Cistern, located near south-west of Ayasofya (Hagia Sophia). This huge cistern, which was founded by Justinianus I, a Byzantine Empire (527-565), began to be called by the public 'the Sinking Palace' - and not without a reason, seeing the great number of marble columns arising out of the water. In place of the cistern was formerly found a great Basilica, which had probably been built in IIIrd or IVth century during the Early Roman Age to be used in commercial and legal affairs and scientific and artistic activities. The basilica was reconstructed by Ilius after it had burned down in a conflagration that broke out in 476. Then it suffered another conflagration. It had a marble statue during the calamitous Nika rebellion in 532 which terrorized the city.
This cistern that was laid on an area of total 9.800 m2 has the capacity to store 100.000 tons of water. The great majority of the columns in the cistern, excluding the few cornered or grooved ones, are in the form of cylinder, among which the one that was embroidered with repeatedly engraved and raised pictures of Hen's Eye, Slanting Branches and Tears particularly draw attention. As a matter of fact, this column has resemblance to the columns in the Triumphal Arch of Great Theodesius belonging to the IVth century (379-395) erected in the 'Farum Tauri' Square during the Byzantine Empire, the remains whereof are now found in today's Beyazıt Square. According to a narration, the reason why the figures thereon resemble tears is that it was erected to the memory of hundreds of slaves who died during the construction of the Great Basilica and has ever told their tragedy throughout centuries.

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Additional Photos by Coskun Tezic (Tezic) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 1827 W: 7 N: 3377] (17867)
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