Specifically, the part of a temple in which the equivalent of an altar is situated, also where the religious services are performed.

I need this word for a fantasy novel I'm writing in which no real-life religions exist. I intend for the word to be as general as is possible. Here is the context:

With the remaining renegades scouting the settlement, sometimes literally shaking information out of the inhabitants, they found the imperial guards to be stationed at a large temple-like structure erected with stone pillars and enclosed with emblazoned curtains and banners.

It was dusk, and no watchmen of any sort was set for the garrison, which the renegades confirmed to be a normal occurrence with corroborations from several near-broken mouths. Also gathered was the fact that the leader of the imperial guards lived in the basement of the garrison, under a raised part of the structure that was once a ____ of some kind.

The goal here to show that the people don't really know what organized religion is anymore after imperial occupation, and any specific terms for the structure was forgotten.


  • Altar: has specifically Christian association, and is an item to be found in the room in question, rather than the room itself
  • 1
    If they don't know what to call the structure, how do they know what its purpose was? – Juhasz Jul 3 at 21:01
  • @Juhasz Good question, I suppose they know it from oral history that it was a place of worship, and maybe the intrinsically consecrated nature of the location is evocative of that idea. – user289661 Jul 3 at 21:36
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    The term "shrine" is used for all religions. – GEdgar Jul 4 at 10:05
  • How the heck was this "fact" "gathered"? Voting to close as unclear because this makes no sense to me. – aparente001 Jul 5 at 3:35
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    @aparente001 Rather than "fact", the word in the paragraph can be replaced with "intelligence" or "information". Gathered by questioning the locals who have knowledge about the guard's residence. This detail should have no impact on the word in question. – user289661 Jul 9 at 18:20

The part of a church or synagogue where the alter or bimah is found is called the sanctuary.

In many Western Christian traditions including Catholic, Lutheran, Methodist, and Anglican churches, the area around the altar is called the sanctuary...

In many churches the architectural term chancel covers the same area as the sanctuary, and either term may be used. In some Protestant churches, the term sanctuary denotes the entire worship area while the term chancel is used to refer to the area around the altar-table...

The terminology that applies the word "sanctuary" to the area around the altar does not apply to Christian churches alone: King Solomon's temple, built in about 950 BC, had a sanctuary ("Holy of Holies") where the Ark of the Covenant was, and the term applies to the corresponding part of any house of worship. In most modern synagogues, the main room for prayer is known as the sanctuary, to contrast it with smaller rooms dedicated to various other services and functions.



Sanctum is a word used in this sense. It sounds close to sanctuary which is already mentioned in a different answer. Indeed it is related but is a more unambiguous word in this sense (sanctuary has a non-religious meaning too and can be confusing when the context is not unambiguously set). Sometimes, the synonymous phrase inner sanctum is used.

... the leader of the imperial guards lived in the basement of the garrison, under a raised part of the structure that was once a sanctum of some kind.


1 A sacred place, especially a shrine within a temple or church.

‘an icon installed within the sanctum of the temple’

‘Thus the upper part of the sanctum assumes a pyramidal shape, which when built would have been at least 40 feet (unfortunately, not much of the temple survives).’

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