A sanctuary is a place of worship often associated with supernatural occurrences, such as manifestations of the Virgin and the Eucharistic miracle, or dedicated to saints and martyrs. It also denotes the part of the church where relics or miraculous images are housed, which is thus the focus of particular veneration and a place of pilgrimage.
In many cases it was originally a natural sacred site (cave, hill, spring, etc.) on which a church was built. Canon law differentiates between the following categories of sanctuaries: diocesan, national (declared by the episcopal conference), and international (only if recognized by the Holy See). Their statutes must be approved by the competent ecclesiastic authorities, and specify their purpose, the authority of their rector, and their relations with the diocese and the Holy See.