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The 1001 Columns Cistern

on 14/08/2014

The 1001 Columns Cistern

     Water supply has always been an important issue in Istanbul. All the Byzantine emperors who lived there tried to solve this problem. In 330, during the construction of the Palace of Lausus near the Hippodrome and the courthouse, Constantine I also ordered the construction of a cistern beneath it.

This cistern, called Binbirdirek in Turkish, has a surface area of 3640 m2 and can store up to 40,000 m3 of water. It is the second biggest cistern of Istanbul after the famous Yerebatan, situated in the same area.

The name Binbirdirek means 1001 columns, although the cistern only counts 224 columns, 212 of which are still visible today. One column displays a Christian cross which indicates that the cistern was built after Byzantium converted to Christianism. The ceiling is 14-15 metres high and is supported by the columns. Each of them is actually made of two columns that are joined by a marble ring.

The cistern is also called Cistern of Philoxenos, which was another palace situated next to the Palace of Lausus.

The workers wrote their names on each column they built. This way they were able to keep count and get paid accordingly.

R. Lubenau, a German Traveller who went to Istanbul at the end of the 16th century, reported that the reservoir was then used as a silk spinning mill. This was also proven later by an etching made by Thomas Allon around 1840.

Nowadays the cistern is mainly rented to accommodate events but can also be visited.


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