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A sanctuary is a place, building, object or the like of central religious importance. In the religions , a sanctuary is accorded special reverence and appreciation, which is expressed in visiting or tabooing the holy place, or in protecting or taking it with you.

Occasionally, entire cities are called Holy City (Greek: Hierapolis ) due to the large number of holy places , such as Rome or Jerusalem . The latter is considered a holy city for Jews as well as Christians and Muslims . In the case of Palestine, one also speaks of the Holy Land

Sanctuaries in religions

Ethnic religions

In the ethnic religions there are usually no man-made sanctuaries. Instead, landscape features such as mountains , groves , forests and bodies of water , but also individual springs or trees are revered as sacred and used as places of worship .

Stone age

Sanctuaries that can be assigned to the megalithic culture are particularly preserved from the Stone Age . Well-known examples are the cromlech of Stonehenge or the temples of Malta , see also stone cult .

Old Egypt

The pyramids were important sanctuaries in ancient Egypt , as they played a major role in the Egyptians' cult of the dead .

Mycenaean culture

From the Late Helladic (approx. 1600-1050 BC) numerous Mycenaean sanctuaries were discovered in Greece.

Ancient Greece

The ancient Greece was comprised of about the period from 1600 BC. Until 27 BC When Greece was integrated into the Roman Empire .


In Judaism , the Mishkan , the “tabernacle” or “tabernacle”, and the Jerusalem temple , into which the Mishkan was later integrated, are considered historical shrines. After the temple was destroyed, the Western Wall , which is a remnant of the temple, is an important sanctuary today . In addition, in everyone's synagogue the Torah ark with the contained Torah scrolls sacred. The four holy cities in Judaism are Jerusalem , Hebron , Safed and Tiberias .


In Christianity and here in the Roman Catholic Church , the space was formerly around the main altar as a sanctuary called. Today the term is used for places of pilgrimage and pilgrimage churches.



The most famous sanctuary of Islam is the city of Mecca with the Kaaba inside it . Both Mecca and Medina , the second most important holy city in Islam, are in principle closed to non-Muslims as haram . Other generally recognized Islamic sanctuaries are the Temple Mount in Jerusalem with the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock and the Machpelah cave in Hebron , also known as the tomb of the patriarchs .

The Shiites consider the burial shrines of the imams from the family of ʿAlī ibn Abī Tālib (as the rightful successors of the Prophet Mohammed) as holy places. Examples are the Imam Husain Shrine in Karbala ( Iraq ) or the Imam Reza Shrine in Mashhad ( Iran ). Other Muslims often regard this strong veneration of the Imam as exaggerated.


In the Baha'i religion, the sites in the Baha'i World Center in Haifa are considered sacred.


In the sacred facilities of Hinduism in the Hindu temple - as the North Indian Shikhara or the South Indian Vimana - represents the center of the universe as an image of the mythical world mountain , in India Meru . In the temple tower is the most sacred area of ​​the temple, the Garbhagriha (lit .: "Mother's lap house"), which forms a cavernous, unlit interior.

The Ganges , the second largest river in India and Bangladesh , is the holiest river for the Hindus. The lingam is the symbol of the Hindu god Shiva .

In Balinese temples, the Padmasana throne is venerated as a special sanctuary.


Aztec religion


In Australia the Uluṟu is an important sanctuary for the Aborigines . Some legends of the dream time entwine around it , which explain its appearance, among other things.

Archaeological identification of sanctuaries

Often times it is difficult to identify places that were previously used by humans as sanctuaries. Written records, place names, pictorial monuments and archaeological finds are available as aids. In Europe, although Tacitus described a number of sanctuaries, none of these places has yet been identified. The same is true of the tradition of Slavic and Scandinavian sanctuaries. The dating of place names is controversial. Evaluable pictorial monuments have only existed since the end of the imperial era and during the migration period. As a rule, only the archaeological findings remain. In this context, three criteria for a sanctuary were developed:

  • The continuity of the holy place, which is often preserved after a change of religion.
  • The discovery. Sanctuaries are not planned. They can be anywhere and do not have to be tied to special landscape formations. The reasons for choosing the location no longer have to be archaeologically verifiable.
  • But predominantly the unusual is linked to a topographical peculiarity.

See also


  • Günter Behm-Blancke: Cave sanctuaries cannibals . Leipzig 2005, ISBN 3-928498-86-X .
  • Carsten Colpe: Theoretical possibilities for the identification of sanctuaries and interpretation in prehistoric and parahistoric epochs. In: Herbert Jankuhn (Hrsg.): Prehistoric sanctuaries and sacrificial sites in Central and Northern Europe. Report on a symposium in Reinhausen near Göttingen in the period 14-16 October 1968. Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class, Third Volume No. 74. Göttingen 1970, pp. 18–39.
  • Angelika C. Messner / Konrad Hirschler (eds.): Holy places in Asia and Africa. Spaces of divine power and human worship . Schenefeld / Hamburg 2006 (= Asia and Africa 11), ISBN 3-936912-19-X .

Web links

Wiktionary: Sanctuary  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Sanctuaries  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. PALESTINE, Holiness OF: . Jewish Encyclopedia . Retrieved November 18, 2018.
  2. Colpe p. 31.