Sacred Sites

Endangered Sacred Sites | Lost Sacred Sites | Saved Sacred Sites

What is a sacred site?

Sacred sites are locations that have been set aside from the places we encounter in our everyday lives and generally fall within two general categories: built structures or natural places. They have been set aside because they are deemed to have a spiritual or religious purpose and sacred meaning within a cultural context. These places may be associated with sacred stories, ceremonies, rituals and practices.

Some general categories and types of sacred sites are:

  • Built Sites: Built sites may have remarkable architecture and/or a historic relationship with sacred land and/or environments. They may include:
    • Temples
    • Churches
    • Shrines
    • Altars
    • Places of pilgrimage
    • Ruins, sites previously occupied
    • Firepits
  • Natural Sites: Natural sacred sites are often part of a greater sacred landscape (on land or below water) with many sacred sites that are related to one another and therefore interconnected. These sites may include:
    • Rivers and their sources
    • Springs and their sources
    • Wells
    • Mountains
    • Rocks and rock outcroppings
    • Trees and tree groves
    • Forests
    • Caves
    • Islands
    • Cultural Sacred Landscapes, storyscapes
    • Origin Sites
    • Pilgrimage Routes
    • Sacred Ceremonial areas
    • Rock/Plant Shrines – Mani stones
    • Gathering places for sacred plants
    • A place for entering the spirit world
  • Archaeological Sites:
    • Archaeoastronomy and calendric sites
    • Megaliths: stone circles, menhirs, dolmens
    • Traditional architecture like historic American Indian dwellings
    • Kivas
    • Pictographs and petroglyphs
    • Temple Ruins
    • Totem Poles
    • Significant alignments
  • Burial Sites and Massacre Sites:
    • Burial grounds of native peoples
    • Historic cemeteries
    • Mass burial sites
    • Massacre sites
    • Memorials, including contemporary sites like Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial
    • Shellmounds and other cultural mounds

Sacred sites are located all around the world, as depicted in the maps below.

Sacred Sites International has compiled a list of endangered, lost/damaged, and saved sites, along with a brief description of each. For more details, and to learn more about these sites, please explore the following:

Endangered Sacred Sites | Lost Sacred Sites | Saved Sacred Sites