A record number of tourists has visited Istanbul’s Basilica (Yerebatan) Cistern in the wake of the release of bestselling author Dan Brown’s latest book, “Inferno.”
The Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality said June 8 that last month 240,000 people visited the Basilica Cistern, or Sunken Cistern, setting a record number of visitors to the gigantic underground water storage chamber, located in the Sultanahmet district of the city. Brown’s “Inferno” mentions famous tourist attractions in Florence and Venice as well.
The Basilica Cistern, one of the magnificent historical buildings of Istanbul, is located just southwest of the Hagia Sophia. This huge cistern, which was built in 542 by Justinianus I, a Byzantine emperor, was called “the Sinking Palace” by the public.
The underground cistern, which provided water to the grand palace where the emperors lived during the Byzantine Empire, was also used after the conquest of Istanbul by the Ottomans in 1453. The gardens of Topkapı Palace were irrigated with water from this cistern.
The Basilica Cistern was turned into a museum and opened to visitors by the Istanbul Municipality after recent restorations.