Wednesday, June 19, 2024

2024 Turkey: The Basilica Cistern II

As mentioned yesterday, the Basilica Cistern is supported by 336  30 ft/9 m columns.  The columns are arranged in 12 rows of 28 columns spaced apart ever 15 ft/5 m.  The columns appear to have been "recycled" for the most part from other parts of the Empire, combined with materials left from the construction of Haghia Sophia.

One of the most distinctive of the recycled columns is not the column itself but its pediment, which is a recycled Gorgon's head.

(Looking up at the Gorgon Head's column)

Another is a highly decorated column.

A third, known as Hen's Eye, contains protuberances that are said to resemble hen's eyes.

(Author's note:  The videos below were originally intended to be present with yesterday's post, but due to some apparent issue, they were not able to be posted until later in the day.  Reposting.)


  1. Nylon128:03 AM

    More info, never gave any thought that material was recycled. Guess looking at Medusa upside down is the only defense eh?

    1. Nylon12, it was a bit of surprise to me too, although in an age of ready materials, it often seems easier to just get new instead of reusing materials. In an age where it was all "made by hand", it probably made more sense the other way (not to mention the transportation costs).

      Interestingly, I do not remember any special significance to the Gorgon's head being upside down. The humorous part of me thinks it was simply an architect's joke that has stood the test of time.

  2. It seems like it would be easier to reuse the columns, but they still had to remove them from their original structures and transport them! Can't argue about the durability of stone though.

    1. Leigh, I believe some of these were left from the reconstruction of the Haghia Sophia church. Also given the previous 200 year history of the region - earthquakes, various invasions - there were likely materials available. I suppose the cost/benefit ratio would have been on transporting them versus carving them new from quarries. That may have had to do with the time allotted.

      Also, I suppose, knowing that no-one was likely going to see this again probably made recycling less of an issue. I suspect the designers and Justinian himself would be shocked it had become a tourist attraction.


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