Sacred Space

What Makes an Area Holy?

Sacred space is any space or area that has been dedicated to a sacred (holy) purpose. An emphasis on sacred space is found in all of the world's major religions: all religions have places set aside as holy, which they use for worship, prayer, meditation, and rituals. They also use the space and architecture in unique ways designed to enhance the spiritual experience.

sacred spaceThe name for this space differs according to faith. Christians have churches, shrines, sanctuaries, chapels, and other locations, while Muslims worship in a mosque, and Jews at a synagogue. Buddhists and Hindus call their spaces "temples." The point remains the same: it is a place where believers can encounter God in a special way.

Sometimes a holy person, or even God, has visited a place and given it an even more sacred character. This space is often even more important in religious tradition and becomes a place of pilgrimage, where people visit. This is normally called a shrine. Examples of shrines are the Vatican, Jerusalem, Mecca, and various smaller shrines throughout the world.

However, in a general sense, anywhere can be sacred space so long as the believer invokes God in some fashion (some would argue this isn't even necessary as humans, created in God's image, make any area holy by entering). By this definition, a walk in nature or a family meal can take a sacred character and the space occupied is holy, at least temporarily.

Some people prefer to create a more permanent sacred space in their everyday life, which is often accomplished through home shrines or altars. This area is often distinguished from the rest of the house by sacred objects. The Catholic tradition in particular emphasizes home altars, which may contain rosaries, statues, holy water, and other sacred objects. It then becomes a sacred space where the family gathers for prayer and devotion.


Updated 08-08-2018