The Sanctuary is the holiest area in an Orthodox Church. As the nave (the main part of the Church) represents the world and the iconostasis represents Christ, the Sanctuary represents Heaven.
The Sanctuary can be entered through three doorways. In the center, the Royal Doors may only be used by ordained clergy while performing divine services, and are closed and curtained when not in use. Christ passes through these doors in the form of the Gospel, the Eucharist, and in the person of the Priest. On either side are the Deacon’s Doors, on which are icons of the Archangels Michael and Gabriel, who serve as the guardians of the Sanctuary.
Only Orthodox Christians with good reason, or have received a blessing to do so, may enter the Sanctuary.
The Holy Table
The Holy Table (or Altar) is the most sacred thing in an Orthodox Church. On it lies the Gospel Book, the Cross, Holy Chrism, and the Tabernacle, which holds the pre-sanctified Body and Blood of Christ used for ministering to the sick or shut-in members of our parish. The Unbloody Sacrifice of the Eucharist is made on the Holy Table at each Divine Liturgy.
Generally speaking, while in the nave (the main part of the Church), one should always face the Altar.
Panagia Platytera is the name of the icon depicted on the half-dome above the Sanctuary. This Greek phrase refers to the Most Holy Theotokos, Wider Than the Heavens. Christ, being God, is larger than the universe; yet he was contained within the womb of his Mother. This great mystery is depicted in the most honored place, looking down on the Altar.
On the walls surrounding the Sanctuary is an iconographic mural of Christ, the Great High Priest, offering his own precious Body and Blood in the Eucharist to the crowds.