Child of the dungeon
In the heart of the bustling Istanbul tourist area Sultanahmet there is one hidden and completely unique place, which few people know. Surrounded by Hagia Sophia on one side and the Blue mosque on the other is a small and completely inconspicuous one-storey stone building with the inscription “Yerebatan Sarnici”. This is us down at the oozing wet from the ceiling dripping water stairs, in the dungeon of the Byzantine Cistern — a giant water reservoirs of the ancient metropolis. 52 steps, leading down, separate us from a different reality… Basilica-cistern Yerebatan (Erebatan) — something utterly phantasmagoric. It impresses with its size and scope. However, in complete darkness, you would not be able to consider absolutely nothing — only heard strange frightening noises and echoing splashes of drops in the pitch darkness. But thanks to the efforts of modern specialists in lighting and organization of the show, the Tank has turned into what it is now. Light effects, soft classical music echoing between the columns, the splash of fish disturbed by the light of lanterns — the atmosphere of another dimension. It is a complete immersion into the majestic underground world created by human hands. Bond and General Way, in General directed several episodes of one of the films about James bond, “From Russia with love” baking, 1963, which mainly occurred in Istanbul. Which is quite significant, because it is an underground water storage — the largest of the hundreds built in the days of the ancient city of Constantinople, which were and are still under the bridges of the modern metropolis of Istanbul. These places are shrouded in mystery and covered with legends. According to them, each of the tanks was connected by secret underground passages with the most important ground structures. Here, under the ground, held secret meetings, plotting the overthrow of the lords, and traitorous conspiracies, committed sophisticated murder and hiding the fact that they had to hide from the face of the earth. Such are the eerie history of… Historians and General If you believe the historians, Yerebatan one of the Byzantine monuments of antiquity survived till our days. And erected, rather, buried in the ground, this building in the VI century ad in the era of Emperor Justinian I. Built a Tank seven thousand slaves. If you look closely, you can see that its columns are often collected from fragments of different columns, and capitals — and does belong to different types: ionic, Corinthian and Doric. The first European scientist who discovered this place was a Dane, historian and traveler Gillius, who came to Istanbul in 1544 to examine the remains of Byzantine civilization. In one of these expeditions around Hagia Sophia, he learned the amazing story that the locals of one of the neighborhoods get drinking water directly through the holes made in the floors of houses, and even sometimes with this water in the bucket gets fish. Armed with a flashlight, the brave researcher went down the basement of one of these houses found slippery mossy steps into the dark echoing unknown and… found a huge underground room, flooded with water. Yerebatan Sarnici. Curiosities Yerebatan This place is also called the sunken Palace, because Yerebatan in Turkish means “drowned under the ground.” Originally on the site of the Cistern was a majestic Basilica, built in III-IV centuries ad. Around it grew a beautiful garden with views of St. Sophia, surrounded by a colonnade, and there was a statue of the prophet Solomon. Later, the Basilica was destroyed, and in its place by order of Justinian in 542 built a Tank. That is, the beautiful Basilica, having disappeared from the face of the earth, turned into a Tank — a sunken Palace. Yerebatan really looks like a Palace or a Catholic Cathedral, submerged under the ground and flooded with water. Imagine: an underground room measuring 143 by 65 meters can accommodate 100 thousand cubic meters of water! This is a huge hall, the arches of which are supported by 336 marble columns, each 9 meters high. They stand in 12 rows of 28 columns each. It is also like an endless forest of colossal marble trunks, brilliantly illuminated by the warm yellowish light of the lamps. There’s water everywhere you look. And in it — to the delight of visitors — a myriad of fattened fish (some copies of a very impressive size) and a scattering of coins thrown into the water Tank by the old tradition — to return to this place again. Among the slender rows of similar columns hidden surprises: a Column of tears and the head of the Gorgon Medusa — according to ancient Greek mythology, the daughter of the underworld. In Yerebatan two statues of the head of the Gorgon, serving as the bases of the columns: one lies on its side, the other upside down. And there is a reason for this: according to legend, this position of the head protects looking at the Jellyfish from her deadly gaze. The column of tears (also called the column of desires) is decorated with an ornament from the eyes. The drops of water running down them make them feel like they’re crying. Here, by tradition, make a wish by touching one of the eyes. The building was regularly repaired — under the Ottomans in the XVIII and XIX centuries, during the Republic since 1968. Finally, in 1985, the municipality of Istanbul metro carried out the final reconstruction of the Tank, taking it under its care. From it was cleaned 50 thousand tons of soil and dirt. And in 1987, after light and music effects were introduced, wooden platforms were laid-paths for visitors, fish were launched, a cafe was opened, it finally acquired the look it has today. Going down to the dungeon Yerebatan Sarnici, be prepared for the fact that you, despite the stretched over the aisles of wooden platforms film, and then will break the water droplets. Until now, especially in heavy rain, the Tank continues to perform its original function — to store and store water. Precipitation and ground water seeping through layers of soil and the laying of the vault, filtered and replenish the fresh water reserves in the vault. Romance Yerebatan be Sure to sit in the underground cafe and drink a Cup of Turkish coffee by candlelight to fully enjoy the atmosphere of this amazing place!