Can someone tell me what a sanctuary symbolizes please?I know the sanctuary refers to the alter, the holiest part of a church.  but could someone tell me what it symbolizes in sort of their own...

Can someone tell me what a sanctuary symbolizes please?

I know the sanctuary refers to the alter, the holiest part of a church.  but could someone tell me what it symbolizes in sort of their own words please.  I'm doing a big paper on religion

Asked on by readeal3

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lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

A sanctuary is a word that operates in religion and beyond religion.  The word has the same root as the word "sacred," so you can see that a sanctuary is a sacred or holy place.  While I am not completely acquainted with all the world's religions, I would have to guess that every religion has designated sanctuaries of some sort. 

There is an old tradition, going back thousands of years, of religious buildings being places where a person could seek sanctuary and not be arrested by civil authorities.  There are modern sanctuary movements, as well, and the link I have provided discusses both the history of sanctuary and modern movements.

We tend to use the word quite expansively today, often with no religious meaning at all,  to mean a place where we are safe.  A teenager, for example, might describe his or her room as a sanctuary.  A very tired dad or mother might characterize a study as a sanctuary. 

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soulwriter's profile pic

soulwriter | College Teacher | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

Sanctuary has many meanings.

As you mentioned, it could be the holiest part of the church. The place where the altar is or where the focus of attention is centered for a particular service or ceremony. Often, in Catholic churches they have a place where you can go to make confession. You enter a small room, close the door, and speak to a priest. This too can be a sanctuary.

For many, the church, temple, or mosk itself is a santuary. Imagine walking down the street, in NYC for example, and you're worried or stressed by life's circumstances. What a relief it might be to come across a church, to sit, relax for a few moments, and offer up a prayer to a higher being. In this case, a holy place like a church or temple is an oasis of sorts within the circumstances of a  busy life.

A sanctuary can also mean the place you go within yourself to find relaxation, connection, and peace. It's that inner sanctuary where you find that you are connected to a higher source. It might be that place where you go to pray, meditate, visualize a new future, or simply let all the worries of life fade away.

Finally, a sanctuary can be one in the imagination. One that is created and then you return to again and again in guided imagery, for example. You could create a shoreline, a beautiful beach with relaxing waves as your sanctuary. Or it might be an exquisite garden with all sorts of colors and flowers and green plants and trees.

I hope this is helpful.