Among all the riches sheltered in İstanbul, one of the rarest and most interesting is the Yerebatan Cistern. It shows the advanced engineering skills of the Byzantine civilization and is one of the most magnificent historical monuments in İstanbul. The Yerebatan Cistern was built on the orders of Emperor Justinianus I in the middle of the 6th century. This large underground cistern was known as the Basilica Cistern during the Byzantine period, and is known today as the Yerebatan Cistern. The water comes from the Eğrikapı Water Centre in the Belgrad Forest via the Valens and the Mağlova aqueducts. There are 52 steps leading down into the cistern, which is held up by a total of 336 columns, situated 9 meters apart. The walls are made from brick and are 4.80 meters deep. The floor is covered with a special mix of plaster (Horasan) that makes it waterproof. The cisterns can hold up to 100.000 tons of water. The Yerebatan Cistern was turned into a museum and opened to visitors by the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality after undergoing repairs. In 1985 and again in 1994 it underwent major cleaning and restoration work. Today the Cistern, which is also a museum, acts as a stage for national and international performances. The Yerebatan Cistern’s Summer Concerts have now become an integral part of summer. Other performances that can be seen in the Cistern are Classical Turkish Music Concerts, Mevlana Sema Performances and the Yerebatan Cisterns’ Poetry Evenings.
No visitor to İstanbul should go home without seeing the Yerebatan Cistern. This mysterious place, which is a must see in any tour program of İstanbul, has thousands of visitors every year. Many foreign statesmen visited the Cistern. Among these distinguished guests was the former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, the Dutch Prime Minister, Wim Kok, the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lamberto Dini, The Swiss Prime Minister, Göran Persson, and the Austrian Prime Minister, Thomas Klestil.