Official protection given to someone by a place that is safe for them
The word ‘sanctuary’ evolved from the French word ‘sanctuaire’. It referred to a place of worship where once inside a fugitive from the law was immune from arrest. The law of the medieval Church thus overrode the law of the land often frustrating the authorities.
A modern comparison is the case of Julian Assange the Australian publisher, journalist, computer programmer and editor-in-chief of the controversial whistle-blowing WikiLeaks. Having failed to defeat attempts to extradite him to Sweden to answer allegations of sexual offences, he sought ‘sanctuary’ in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in June 2012. This was to avoid arrest and deportation to Sweden that Assange feared was a ruse to facilitate his eventual deportation to the US where he is likely to face serious charges.
1. [UNCOUNTABLE] official protection given to someone by a place that is safe for them
Refugees sought sanctuary in Thailand.
a. [COUNTABLE/UNCOUNTABLE] a place where you can be safe or comfortable
All she wanted now was the sanctuary of her own room.
See the full definition on the Macmillan Dictionary