Theodosius Cistern in Istanbul
Theodosius Cistern (Serefiye Sarnici) Entrance Fee and Opening Hours
Foundation legend of Istanbul dates back to Ancient Greece. Upon departing the city of Megara close by Gulf of Corinth, Byzas and his company came to Seraglio Point (Sarayburnu) and established Byzantium on the hill where Topkapı Palace resides now.
Shortage of water supplies was not a problem for this small community because only a few thousand people resided there at that time. However, after Byzantium was reconstructed and became Constantinople as the second capital of Roman Empire, population explosion caused significant water shortages.
Emperor Valens built the longest water network system until that time. Known as Valens Aqueduct supplied drinking water through Thrace (Star Mountains) to Istanbul.
Cisterns of Istanbul
Istanbul solved the problem of water shortage with the aqueducts that Valens built. But they needed to sustain the flowing water. For that purpose, tens of cisterns were built in the following centuries. Basilica Cistern is no doubt the most famous among them.
Until recently, there haven’t been any cisterns but Basilica Cistern to visit as a museum at the Historical Peninsula. Now Theodosius Cistern is among the most valuable museums of Istanbul thanks to eight-year-work of Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
Besides these two, Bindirdirek Cistern (Cistern of Philoxenos), Cistern Restaurant (Soğukçeşme Street), and the one that is used as an exhibition on the ground floor of Nakkas Rug Store (Nakilbent Street) are worth to see, as well. (all located in Sultanahmet area)
Underground Basilica Cistern in Istanbul
The History of Theodosius Cistern
Serefiye Cistern (its local name) is mentioned as Theodosius Cistern in English because it’s named after its builder, Theodosius II. He is an important figure because of his major contribution to the construction of the city, as he reigned as an Eastern Roman Emperor in Constantinople at the 4th century.
To exemplify, Walls of Constantinople (also known as Theodosian Walls) that guarded the city from any kind of threat for ages, was constructed under his reign.
Additionally, we need to keep in mind that it was himself who reconstructed 2nd generation Hagia Sophia (Theodosian Hagia Sophia). Theodosian Hagia Sophia was demolished during the Nika Revolt which broke out in 532, and Emperor Justinian built the 3rd generation Hagia Sophia that still stands today.
The construction of Theodosius Cistern took nearly 15 years, from 428 to 443. It was crucial for rulers to supply non-stop water in Sultanahmet area because it was the center of the capital in Roman, Byzantine (and even Ottoman) era.
There is a great documentary released by Byzantium1200 > Water Supply of Constantinople
Theodosius (Serefiye) Cistern Entrance Fee
Entrance to the Theodosius Cistern is free of charge for the time being. It is strongly recommended to see it if you pay a visit to Sultanahmet.
Theodosius (Serefiye) Cistern Visiting Hours
Theodosius Cistern is open for visit 7 day of the week. You can see it between 09:00 am – 19:00 pm.
Image by Ayhan Altun from Getty Images
Where is it and How to Serefiye Cistern
In order to visit Theodosius Cistern (Serefiye Sarnici) you need to find Piyer Loti Hotel which is located on Divanyolu Street (Tramline street in Sultanahmet) and then take the turning to Piyer Loti Street.
In order to find the Piyer Loti Street, you need to take the Sultanahmet Tram Station behind you and walk in the direction of the next tram stop which is called as Cemberlitas. Before you arrive at Cemberlitas Tram Station where Column of Constantine (Burnt Column) stands, you’ll see the cafeteria of Piyer Loti Hotel on your left.
Take the turning at the café and go straight ahead. You’ll realize a steel construction building at the square. That elegant building covered in glass is the entrance to the cistern.
Official Website: https://www.serefiyesarnici.istanbul/en
Theodosius Cistern Blog Post by Serhat Engul