Online Encyclopedia

SANCTUARY (from the late Lat. sanctua...

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Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 129 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SANCTUARY (from the late Lat. sanctuarium, a sacred place), a sacred or consecrated place, particularly one affording refuge, protection or right of asylum; also applied to the privilege itself, the right of safe refuge. In Egyptian, Greek or Roman temples it was applied to the cella in which stood the statue of the god, and the Latin word for altar, ara, was used for protection as well. In Roman Catholic usage sanctuary is sometimes applied to the whole church, as a consecrated building, but is generally limited to the choir. The idea that such places afforded refuge to criminals or refugees is founded upon the primitive and universal belief in the contagion of holiness. Hence it was sacrilege to remove the man who had gained the holy precincts; he was henceforth invested with a part of the sacredness of the place, and was inviolable so long as he remained there. Some temples had peculiar privileges in this regard. That of Diana at Ephesus extended its inviolability for a perimeter of two stadia, until its right of sanctuary was refused by the Romans. Not all Greek and Roman temples, however, had the right in an equal degree. But where it existed, the action of the Roman civil law was suspended, and in imperial times the statues and pictures of the emperors were a protection against pursuit. Tacitus says that the ancient Germans held woods, even lakes and fountains, sacred; and the Anglo-Saxons seem to have regarded several woods as holy and to have made sanctuaries of them, one of these being at Leek in Staffordshire. The use of Christian churches as sanctuaries was not based upon the Hebrew cities of refuge, as is sometimes stated. It is part of the general religious fact of the inviolability attaching to things sacred. The Roman law did not recognize the use of
End of Article: SANCTUARY (from the late Lat. sanctuarium, a sacred place)

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