Scuba Diving Beneath Hagia Sophia

[Image: Inside Hagia Sophia; via].

While scuba diving beneath Hagia Sophia, an exploratory team led by filmmaker Goksel Gülensoy has “managed to reach areas that until now, no one had ever managed to reach,” down there in flooded basins 1000 feet beneath Istanbul’s heavily touristed religious structure.
In the process, they have discovered 800-year old submerged graves containing the remains of “canonized children.”
This was just part of a larger, underwater archaeo-spatial survey:

The divers and specialists explored the connection of the basins underneath Aghia Sophia with the aqueduct and the palace of Top Kapi. In addition they attempted to locate the secret tunnels from Tekfour Palace to the Islands.

Those “secret tunnels” are presumably the rumored subterranean extensions of the Anemas Dungeons – but who knows.
Either way, I have long been fascinated by the idea of scuba diving beneath – if not actually through – architectural structures, so I am definitely looking forward to watching Gülensoy’s forthcoming documentary about these discoveries. That film, appropriately enough entitled In the Depths of Hagia Sophia, will begin screening at film festivals this autumn.
“I believe what is beneath Hagia Sophia is much more exciting than what is above the surface,” Gülensoy explained to the Hürriyet Daily News and Economic Review. There, we read about the flooded basins in more detail:

Years ago, Erdem Yücer, one of the former directors of the museum, had shown Gülensoy a photograph that was taken of the foundations of Hagia Sophia. The photo showed researchers in a boat in a place filled with water, resembling the Yerebatan Cisterns. Seismic research had also demonstrated that the area underneath the big hall was empty. The team, which had previously lowered a camera down from the second door during the first exploration, was thrilled to see two passages extending to the center of the building and to the exit door – passages that might extend to Yerebatan and Topkapi.

For somewhat obvious reasons, I’m reminded of the “huge underground lake” discovered underneath Budapest late last year. “Budapest is built above a maze of unexplored underground caves,” The Sun reported at the time.
In any case, the Hürriyet article includes short descriptions of the actual tunnels beneath Hagia Sophia, and it mentions plans for these otherwise archaeologically unknown spaces to be scanned for later study. This latter detail reminds me of the Bill Stone video that I linked a few days back.

(With thanks to John Maas! Vaguely related: recreational fishing in the basements of Manhattan).

9 thoughts on “Scuba Diving Beneath Hagia Sophia”

  1. True story: 5 hours ago I was at a top secret jazz concert taking place inside the Turkish bath which serves as the entrance to the Budapest caves mentioned above. A Budapest friend explains the existence of the underground caves / waterways, and then I told him it is very likely that BLDG BLOG would want to write about it if he hasn't already. SURE Enough, BLDG BLOG has already written about it just ONE day before. I hadn't read bldgblog in weeks! Really really strange.

  2. The main (?) entrance to the underground is gated off with a very appropriately simple metal gate… The friend that invited us to the space said a dude told him last year that they got permission to go inside but could only go through the waterways and had to be very careful not to touch or affect any of the walls or structures since it is a heritage site… (maybe the people in the video?) The waterway is just to the right and, because it was nighttime, we thought it was a grass field at first because it is all covered in a thick mossy-something. The abandoned turkish bath space itself is an architectural strange-masterpiece… will post a flickr link here soon because we all couldn't stop borrowing a friend's camera all night… Top-Secret passageways, owl faces in the corners, which sometimes transformed into darth vader faces, and discussed potentials for projections and live coding VJ parties, and extremely effective lighting. Haha.

  3. I will post flickr photos…if someone posts a map to the entrance!

    I see a metal gate in the rock walls near Gellert Hegy on my way to south on Buda side, but i thought that was part of the secret military installation under the hill.

    Are these entrances further outside the city the spelunking areas or actually under the city proper?

  4. I can't comprehend however that there's 1000 feet depth under Hagia Sofia. How could that be? Is it a naturally hollow space or man-made as part of the building structure. Any insight would be appreciated.

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