The Mysterious Cistern

Come explore a massive underground water reservoir from 789 AD

By Israel Today Staff | | Topics: archaeology
Photo: Yossi Aloni/Flash90

In Ramle, a mixed Jewish-Arab city in the center of Israel, there is an interesting building from the time of the Abbasid rule in the Land of Israel that hardly anyone knows today: the Helena Basin. The arched cistern, known in English as the “Pool of Arches,” is an underground water reservoir that was built in 789 AD, at the time when the famous Caliph Harun al Rashid ruled from Baghdad. The year of construction is chiseled into the plaster of the pool wall.

The structure is a rare testimony to the quality of construction and the beauty of Muslim architecture. It has weathered many earthquakes in the region. The name “Helena Basin” goes back to the mother of Constantine the Great. In Arabic the cistern is called “the goat basin” because in the past the shepherds watered their goats here.

The roof rests on three rows of columns. Each row has five columns connected by pointed arches.


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