Istanbul’s Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnıcı), the largest one in the city, was visited by more than 2.2 million people last year. Yerebatan has broken its own historical record after world famous writer Dan Brown’s recent book ‘Inferno’ was published.
The bestseller also includes a reference to the Hürriyet Daily News and one of its articles. Brown has quoted a brief paragraph from a Hürriyet Daily news article on Göksel Gülensoy, who had accessed the tunnels underneath the Hagia Sophia in 2009.
The entrance to the Basilica Cistern is in the Sultanahmet region, next to Haghia Sophia. The cistern was built during the reign of Emperor Justinian I in 532 to meet the water needs of the Palace.
The Basilica Cistern was given its name for the reason of being located under the Stoa Basilica. It covers an area of 140 meters long and 70 meters wide. The cistern has 336 marble columns in Ionic or Corinthian styles, which are 9 meters in length. To enter the cistern, one has to go down a 52-step staircase.
The cistern was opened to the public in 1987 by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Two heads of Medusa, a female monster of the underworld in Greek Mythology, are used as bases for two columns on the left side of the cistern.
Dating back to early 4th century, it is still unknown from where they were removed and brought from.
Of the three sisters only snake-headed Medusa was mortal, who had the ability to turn those who look at her into stone. At that time, images and statutes of Gorgons often erected in order to protect great structures and special places from evil forces.
She fell in love with Perseus who was the son of Zeus, a Greek God, but Goddess Athena was in love with Perseus and was therefore very jealous of Medusa. For her jealousy, Athena turned Medusa’s hair into snakes. It was believed that since then, whoever looked at Medusa, would turn into stone.