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Some cities are just places where a lot of people live and work. Some are seats of worldly authorities, elevating them above others. And then there is the Holy City, a site so intrinsically tied to a particular religion that it became a symbol of faith all by itself. In peacetime, it will result in thousands to millions of devoted pilgrims visiting it every day. In wartime, expect it to be defended to the last breath, even more so than a national capital (unless it is the national capital), and the consequences if it is ever sacked by an invader are a lot graver.
Holy cities come in two flavors:
- Vatican-style: The seat of the High Priest, The Pope, or the head of The Church by any other name.
- Jerusalem-style: A city historically important to religion but not directly under its influence.
Compare Capital City.
Anime and Manga
- Rabona in Claymore, by the virtue of being at the center of all known lands.
- Northen District of Mid-Childa in Lyrical Nanoha franchise, governed by the Saint Church.
- Sailor Moon: The ruins of the Moon Kingdom on the moon. In the manga, Sailor Moon's power-up came from praying to the crystal tower.
- The Hometree in Avatar serves as both a city and a sacred site for the Na'vi, though not as sacred as the Tree of Souls (which, on the other hand, isn't really a city).
- Foundation: Terminus is the holy planet of the Religion of Science.
- Rhuidean from The Wheel of Time series is a Jerusalem-style holy city for the Aiel.
- Cantisca for the Sole and Unified Church in the Arcia Chronicles.
- Agaris for the Esperatian Church in Reflections of Eterna until it is razed and burned to the ground.
- On Gor the one holy place is the Sardar Mountains, where the Priest-Kings live. Four times a year, at the solstaces and equanoxes, there is a fair at the base of the mountain. Every Gorean is expected to attend the fair at least once before their 25th birthday.
- In Catherynne M Valente's In The Night Garden, the city of Al-a-Nur is a Holy City where stand twelve Towers, each a temple for a completely different faith, from the Tower of Sun and Moon, to the Tower of Patricides, to the Tower of St. Sigrid, etc. In Al-a-Nur, all the different devotees live together in harmony.
Live Action TV
- Stargate SG-1 has Celestis, a holy city populated entirely by the Priors of the Ori, and located on a vast, flat plain of very shallow water. The Ori themselves manifest a sacred eternal fire there that they use to communicate with the Doci, their head priest.
- A ton of them in Eberron.
- Flamekeep in Thrane for the Church of the Silver Flame, both a Jerusalem and Vatican style, as it hosts the Silver Flame itself and the Speaker of the Flame and High Cardinals.
- Ashtakala in the Demon Wastes, an evil version, for the Rhakshasas and the Lords of Dust. A Jerusalem-style (Former capital of their empire).
- Greenheart in the Eldeen Reaches for the Wardens of the Woods, a Vatican-style (home of the Great Druid Oalian).
- Shae Mordai in Aerenal, the City of the Dead hosts the Undying Court the elves worship. A vatican-Style.
- Most of the cities of Adar are also temples of various monk orders.
- Athur in Karrnath is a Vatican-style. It houses the Crimson Monastery of the Blood of Vol. The religion's true figurehead, Vol, lives somewhere else. The monastery is home to the cardinals who spread her teachings.
- Holy Terra for the Imperial Cult/Ecclesiarchy in Warhammer 40000.
- In Forgotten Realms many people consider cities visited during Time of Troubles by deities they venerate to be especially blessed, worthy of pilgrimage or something like this.
- Val Royeaux in the Dragon Age series, the capital of the Chantry of Andraste. Ditto Minrathous for the Imperial Chantry.
- Denerim as well, for being the birthplace of Andraste. Jerusalem style.
- Dragon Quest VIII features several important religious locales home to the Templars, but none are more important than the Holy Isle of Neos. The city and its population are systematically wiped out when Rhapthorne finally escapes from his sceptre and levels the once-sacred place to serve as his stronghold, the Dark Citadel. Neos has some good equipment, so you might want to avoid the plot for a bit.
- Civilization IV introduced religions. Holy city is a city where religion started, and it can give considerable bonuses if religion will spread around the globe.
- St. Heim Papal State for the Church of Granas in Grandia II.
- High Charity, a colossal, mobile planetoid that serves as the capital of the Covenant and the Prophets' Holy City in the Halo series.
- At the time of Morrowind, the eponymous province has three Holy Cities, one for each of the three Tribunal gods. Almalexia and Vivec are clear Vatican-style cities, as they not only house the deities they're named after but also high-ranking Temple officials (the head of the Temple in Vvardenfell in Vivec and the head of the Temple on the mainland in Almalexia). Sotha Sil... is a bit more complex, as the inhabiting god stays away from mortal affairs, and the city's location is unknown to mortals (and, as such, has no mortal inhabitants).
- Sienne in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, home of the Tower of Guidance, Mainal Cathedral, and the Holy Apostle, Empress of Begnion.
- Daath, where the Order of Lorelei is based in Tales of the Abyss is a Vatican-style Holy City. "The Watchers' Home", Yulia City, is something of a hybrid of the Vatican-style and Jerusalem-style, being linked with the Order and historically significant to it, though only high-ranking members and residents of the city even know of its existence.
- Jerusalem is probably the Ur Example. It's the Holy City of three world religions (in chronological order): Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
- For the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican City and, by extension, the whole of Rome.
- Mecca and Medina for Islam. See also the list of holy sites in Islam on The Other Wiki.
- Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, has some aspects of this for the Greek Orthodox.
- Alexandria, seat of the Coptic Pope (who lives in Cairo these days, but who's counting?).
- Salt Lake City is this for the Latter-Day Saints.
- Kyoto can be seen as this for Japan. Not only is it the seat of Shinto but also a revered historical city for secularist Japanese.
- To a lesser extent, Canterbury in England. It was a very common destination for pilgrimages on account of its beautiful cathedral and it being the site of the martyrdom of St. Thomas Becket.
- Echmiadzin for the Armenian church.
- The Russian Orthodox Church is led out of Sergiev Posad.