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Sacred space outside the churches

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#1 Sbdn. Peter Simko

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Posted 29 December 2017 - 02:49 PM



Christ is born!  When I was young, I attended a certain camp as a scout, and this camp had a triangular area surrounded by paths that was pretty much open forest.  We were told that the Native Americans reserved this triangular patch of land with great reverence, and that only those scouts that participated in a yearly outdoor sleep on the grass of that space were allowed to walk there.  The rest of us had to go around it on the paths.


Within the Church, we have a keen sense of sacred space and the restrictions that come with it when it comes to objects like holy vessels and places like before the Holy Table or on the Ambo.  I was wondering: do we have any sacred objects or places outside the walls of our church buildings that are similarly reserved for certain ranks of clergy?  For example, are there places of pilgrimage in the Church that are not churches per se, but nevertheless warrant ordination to a certain degree or a special blessing to use that space to touch that object?  I can think of the Holy Mountain as an approximate example of this, and perhaps the grounds of certain monasteries around the world, but that's about it.  Thank you.

#2 Kusanagi


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Posted 29 December 2017 - 10:34 PM

Apart from certain monasteries that allow only men or only women. You can consider the Holy Ark which is said to be kept by the Ethiopians where not everyone can visit

#3 Kosta


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Posted 30 December 2017 - 09:01 AM

For the most part those sacred outdoor spaces usually have chapels built over them so they cease being outdoor. Like the chapel of the burning bush on Sinai. The roots of the bush run under it and your expected to take off your shoes when entering as commanded by God to Moses. 

#4 Phoebe K.

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 06:39 PM

There is the tradition of saints wells in the UK although these are normally nondescript springs of pools with the exception of a few like chalice well at Glastonbury or Holly Well in North Wales.  These sites are associated with the life and often death of a saint (mostly British saints who is known locally, though there are some dedicated to the Archangel Michael or the like).  These are not restricted to the clergy though as they mostly date from a time in British ecclesial history when there was not such a sharp distinction between clergy, monastics and laity in the early days of the church, and most are also not owned by orthodox but on public land so open access ( I have been to a well where the sheep have to be moved out of the way before it can be blessed).


The British isles also have a collection of sacred isles off the main land and principle inhabited islands although once they were the preserve of monks they now tend to be left to the wildlife and are often privately owned so permission has to be obtained to visit them.


But as Kosta says most of the holy sites which were outside have since had churches built over them, mostly thanks to the work of st Helen mother of Constantine,


There is little that cannot be sanctified in the Orthodox life I have found, as we are a sanctified and set apart people as the ancient nation of Israel was, and the Church properly referred to in Orthodoxy as a temple stands for us in the place of the temple of Jerusalem with the levels of the sanctity. It is often described that the Alter is for us like the Holy of Holies the nave like the Holy place, the narthex the inner court of the temple and the rest of the world like the outer court.

#5 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 30 December 2017 - 10:07 PM

As Phoebe says, there are holy or sacred places outside a church building in the 'old world'. She mentions holy wells of which there are many in Britain and Ireland, some obscure and some, such as St Winefride's Well and that of St Seiriol, both in Wales, and St Madron in Cornwall (which I visited with Fathers from the Holy Trinity St Sergius Lavra) . All people are able to approach such places. There are also holy springs and wells or pools in Russia which I have visited, most notably that of St Seraphim near Sarov. Again, all may visit these places. I have not heard of any such places where only ordained clergy may go or for which a special blessing is needed to visit.

Edited by Rdr Andreas, 30 December 2017 - 10:08 PM.

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