City Sanctuaries: essential to forming ‘new modes of neighbourliness’

Former Congregational Church building and site of Colony 47 on Davey Street (centre) looking across from St David's Park, Hobart, Tasmania.

Former Congregational Church building and site of Colony 47 on Davey Street (centre) looking across from St David’s Park, Hobart, Tasmania.

CITY SANCTUARIES  is a community heritage project, presently being undertaken by Wesley Hobart Museum and Arts Tasmania to foster public appreciation of Hobart’s significant and diverse urban sanctuaries and its spiritual landscape.

Having an interfaith and broad public focus, City Sanctuaries is working to identify common ground that is able to support and nurture a shared appreciation of the different and distinctive features of the city’s sanctuary places.

What do we mean by city sanctuary?

We use the term “city sanctuary” to refer to urban places where sacred forms are given expression in ways (e.g. through art, architecture, word, ritual and mundane practices) that are conserved, remembered and made accessible to city inhabitants and their visitors.

Yet sanctuary is appreciated not only as place but also as welcoming, revitalizing and neighbourly relationship.

Pope Paul VI wrote that the task of Christians in contemporary urban societies should be “to create new modes of neighbourliness”.

There is an urgent need to remake at the level of the street, of the neighbourhood … the social fabric whereby men and women may be able to develop the needs of their personalities. Centres of special interest and of culture must be created or developed at the community and parish levels … where the individual can escape from isolation and form anew brotherly and sisterly relationships.

To build up the city, the place where women and men and their expanded communities exist, to create new modes of neighbourliness and relationships, to perceive an original application of social justice and to undertake responsibility for this collective future… is a task in which Christians must share. … (Octogesima Adveniens, 1971, 11-12)[i].

It is within these “new modes of neighbourliness” and precisely at the places where they are practised that urban sanctuary may be encountered and experienced.

We therefore do not view urban sanctuaries so much in terms of their being a retreat from the city; as in terms of their providing essential modes for re-engagement with the city. This is so, even in those cases where they provide space for solitude and reflection.

City Sanctuaries encourages appreciation of these special places; and, through mediated and authentic interpretation, revelation of the sacred forms that they nurture.

What is the project outcome?

The hoped-for project outcome is the publication of a provisional City Sanctuaries interpretation policy and plan, together with an invitation to our diverse communities to engage in building and delivering supporting media.

Why are we doing it?

We believe that the City Sanctuaries project has value because:

  • There is wide public interest in learning about and appreciating significant city sanctuaries and significant spiritual landscapes.
  • Cultivating an appreciation of its urban sanctuaries and spiritual landscapes helps a community to deal with inclusivity and diversity, “otherness” and alienation as critical social and spiritual issues[ii].
  • Our diverse and significant city sanctuaries are important for the welfare of the city and to the Hobart community as well as to the communities that form and connect there.
  • Our diverse and significant city sanctuaries are worth conserving for the enjoyment of current and future generations. Their conservation requires that we cultivate an appreciation of their worth.


Andrew & Colleen

Project Workers


[i] English translation using inclusive language.

[ii] The Spiritual City: Theology, Spirituality, and the Urban by Philip Sheldrake, 2014, Wiley Blackwell.

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