The Basilica Cistern is an ancient water reservoir beneath the city of Istanbul Turkey. It is located not far from many of the Istanbul’s five star sites like the Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque. Built in the 6th century during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, the water chamber covers more than 100,000 square feet. Basilica Cistern is the largest of several hundred ancient underground reservoirs that once lay beneath Constantinople. The reservoir is capable of holding nearly 21 million gallons of water.
Fans of the James Bond classic “From Russia with Love” will recognize the Basilica Cistern. The historic reservoir was as an exotic backdrop for a scene in the movie. In From Russia with Love, Bond spies on the Soviets using a periscope surreptitiously installed beneath their embassy in the cistern. (In truth the Basilica Cistern is nowhere near the Russian embassy.)
Basilica Cistern’s underground location means that it is pleasantly cool inside. It makes for a good break from a hot Istanbul day. We found ourselves lingering in the chamber. Were we looking for James Bond’s periscope or just trying to keep from roasting outside?
(Locations for the filming of James Bond movies have become a highlight of our travels. Perhaps the movies were an early motivation to travel?)