Project Rationale

Spiritual Dimension of the Experience of Cities

Brief History of Spiritual Building and Space Development

Building or creating spiritual places and spaces is ancient, pre-historic. There are cave and exposed stone sites in Europe and other parts of the world that date back 10’s of 1000’s of years rich with the stories of petrographs (paintings – like Lascaux in France) and petroglyphs (etchings – like the Peterborough Petroglyphs – over 900 ancient images carved into limestone in Ontario).

We are all familiar with Stone Henge in England, Ayers Rock in Australia, the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, Chichen Itza in Mexico, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Parthenon in Greece, Assisi in Italy, Dharmasala in India, Mecca in Saudi Arabia. The list is a timeless story of caves, burial sites, gathering places, standing stones, labyrinths, stone circles, sacred trees, healing waters, pilgrimage trails, churches, temples, mosques, religious monuments, altars, tabernacles, monasteries, nunneries, sacred groves, hilltops, village greens and holy wells. They are spaces and places often created using sacred geometry, feng shui, Vaastu Shastra, the four directions, the four elements (water, air, earth, fire), and other sacred design and architectural principles.

All of these places are physical testament to the cultural and personal importance of spirit, of connection to something greater than an individual, of the recognition that there is more to ourselves than we can physically touch or see. Before skyscrapers, it was the spiritual places that were the largest buildings on earth. An enormous amount of time, energy and resources were spent on the construction and maintenance of these places. The Temple of Karnak, for example, at Thebes, Egypt was constructed across a period of 1300 years. Imagine having the vision for that kind of staying power in the 21st century. Even the main building of the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, BC was built over the course of 34 years (1923–1957). During construction, a robin nested atop scaffolding next to the top of one of the main pillars of the nave. Work in that area was deferred until the end of nesting season!

The Healing Cities Institute was conceived in order to start to bring some of that level of attention to the sacred nature of place back into our urban planning.  We recognize the importance of honouring people, all people, whether we live in our indigenous locations or not, as whole beings and of honouring our places and spaces as whole as well.

We understand that if we are to truly address the health of individuals and communities inhabiting and using our cities, we have to address all facets of whole health: physical, mental/emotional, social and spiritual.

There’s a reciprocal relationship: as we honour and develop the spirit of place and build and retrofit for it, we honour and develop that in ourselves and vice versa. The one deepens the other and each becomes richer and more nourished for the effort.

~ Nicole Moen
Founding Member, Healing Cities Institute




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