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History

1001 Direk Cistern exists under a small public square upper side of Justice Palace in Sultanahmet.

According to Byzantium resources, The Binbirdirek Cistern was constructed in the fourth century as  the second biggest water reservoir in Istanbul after Bazalika Cistern (Yerebatan Palace). These resources say that when 1. Constantinus settled the city, he forced to migrate some of his senates from Rome to here. One of them was Philoxenus Palace, and he has built this Cistern in the aim of providing the necessary water to this palace which was built as a neighbour of hippodrome. As Patria Konstantinopoleos, one of the sources giving information about the topography of the city of Byzantium period, Philoxenus Palace was near to Lausus Palace and was neighbour to Constantinus forum. There is no doubt that this forum is in Çemberlitaş. It’s known that Lausus Palace is also at the same surrounding, so Binbirdirek Cistern is belong to Philoxenus Palace, or most probably to Lausus Palace.

It is estimated that when the Turkish Period beginned, there was no water in the Cistern. German traveller R. Lubenau who has come to İstanbul in the 16th century, notifies that workers were processing yarn of silk in the cistern. However, there are somebody written that there was water in the cistern in the 18th century. It’s known that in Ottoman period, some big mansions were built on top of the cistern. One of them was Fazlı Paşa who has built a magnificent palace and put 1.Ahmet up in it. The Palace was burnt in 1960 Ayazmakapı Fire, afterwards another wooden mansion was built instead of it; that mansion which was also used as a financial office, was burnt in Hocapaşa fire. After these mansions, Binbirdirek Cistern stayed with an empty area upper side; however it was used as a warehouse of neighbourhood bazaar that was settled upper side public place.

According to what R.Ekrem Koçu wrote, in “Tayyarzade” titled folk tale which had been, firstly, published in 1290-1873, a happening is narrated which was during the imperial of IV.Murad (1623-1640) in the 17th century. This tale is concerned as a “meddah story” (traditional story teller), belonging to the eighteenth century. In this tale, it is hold how Fazlı Paşa’s overage daughter Gevherli Hanım and one of her beautiful and young female slave had attracted rich people, captured them in this cistern, and how they killed them after getting their possessions. Though, this 30-40 paged tale’s accuracy is not certain.

Since there was no water inside of the Binbirdirek Cistern, it was used by the silk and yarn producers as an atelier in the seventeenth century. Moreover, the gravure drawn by Thomas Allom in 1840s that shows the daily life of the workers, proves the fact. After the mansion on the cistern was destroyed, several passages were opened by drilling some of the vaults in the aim of letting some light and air into the cistern. 

For the first time, the plan of Binbirdirek Cistern was published by the famous Austrian architect Fiseher von Erlach (1656 – 1723), which was based on the drawings he has gotten from Swedish engineer Cornelius Ioos.The Binbirdirek Cistern is a massive reservoir that is surrounded with a thick wall all around. Inside the cistern there were 224 columns (16 rows x14 columns) with the dimensions of 64m, 56m, 40m. Today, you can see only 212 of them exist. The gap between the two columns is 3.75m and the columns are connected to each other with arches which carry the transversal vaults. The columns are formed by overlapping two different bodies of pillars and between these two parts, an overflowing wheel was placed. On the body of the columns, there are pyramid shaped headings -which were not ornamented- show that these pillars were constructed for this cistern specially, instead of being brought from somewhere else. The arches are connected to each other with wooden stretchers which were on the headings. Today, it is only possible to see the holes of these stretchers.

The name of the Turkish period of the cistern maybe would come from a word “binbir” which means abundance, or as a claim of somebody maybe the name would come from the word “bindir” because the body of the columns exists one on the top of the other.  The lower parts of the columns have buried nearly 5m. into the ground. Actually, completely height of the supports are 12,50m. The vaults, at the corner of the left side of todays entrance of the cistern, were demolished and so 18 sections had filled that were here.  It attracts attention that too many Greek letters have performed on the body of the columns.  It’s known that these are the signs of the stoneworkers who performed the columns and worked by building the cistern.

 
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