3.4 Sacred Place – Sacred Space

In this section of the assignment, you will explore the location and spatial distribution of religiously sacred sites around the world. By the end of the assignment, you should be able to:

  • Compare and contrast the locations of sacred sites related to Christianity, Judaism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam.
  • Identify and explain where Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, and Sikhism originated.

What are sacred sites?

What determines what makes a site or place sacred is if people view the location worthy of respect and dedication, and believed to be holy. This causes people to care for and protect sacred spaces, where people may also make pilgrimages to worship and celebrate.

Where are the sacred sites for the world’s major religions located?

Step 1: Go to the ArcGIS Online map, Sacred Place – Sacred Space. Take a minute to explore the map. Change the basemap to a map of your preference.

Step 2: With the Details button underlined, click the button, Show Contents of Map (Content).

Step 3: Check the box to the left of the layer name, Sacred Sites.

Geographic Question
  • In which regions of the world are these sacred sites not located?

Step 4: Zoom in and click a few of these sites. Read the pop-up information.

What makes these locations sacred is that they are the locations of the founder’s life or had important natural features like rivers, mountains, and so on.

Where are the hearths of these religions?

Step 5: Click the button, Basemap. Select National Geographic.

Step 6: In the Contents pane, click the map layer name. Click the Filter icon. Set the filter parameters (e.g., Religion is Buddhism). Choose Apply and Zoom To. Filter the Sacred Sites layer. Set to show: Religion is Buddhism.

Geographic Question
  • Where is Buddhism’s hearth located?

Step 7: Repeat the filter process for Christianity Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism.

Geographic Questions
  • Where is Christianity’s hearth?
  • Where is Hinduism’s hearth?
  • Where is Islam’s hearth?
  • Where is Sikhism’s hearth?

Step 8: Remove the filter to make all sites visible.

How close are some of the sacred sites to Islam, Judaism, and Christianity located?

Step 9: Click the button, Bookmarks. Select Jerusalem.

Geographic Question
  • Where is this city located?

Step 10: Choose the Old City of Jerusalem bookmark, and change the Basemap to OpenStreetMap.

Step 11: Turn on the layer, Old City of Jerusalem.

Step 12: Using the Measure tool, calculate the area of the Old City.

Geographic Question
  • What is the area of the Old City?

Step 13: Choose the Temple Mount bookmark.

Step 14: Turn on Jerusalem’s Sacred Sites layer and make sure the legend is visible.

Geographic Question
  • To which faith are the Al-Aqsa Mosque and Dome of the Rock sacred?
  • To which faith is the Western Wall sacred?
  • To which faith is Church of the Holy Sepulcher sacred?

How do these sites impact politics and society?

Step 15: Change the basemap to National Geographic.

Step 16: Select the bookmark, Sacred Sites.

Geographic Questions
  • These sacred sites and places have political significance because borders cross over some of the areas governments sometimes favor one religion over another.
  • Sacred sites and places become part of a community’s identity because they are symbols of pride, tourism destinations, part of the laws, and so on.


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Applied World Regional Geography by R. Adam Dastrup, MA, GISP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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