The city is a key location of the modern social world, a home of rootlessness and transient everyday encounters between individuals. This essay explores the idea of 'the sanctuary' as a way in which people look for anchorage, and create and re-create images of a society, to cope with and negotiate life in the city. It mainly draws on Durkheim's work on ritual, symbolism and the sacred, together with his account of individual and collective representations. But it also discusses these concerns though other writers, notably Freud and Ricœur, and it draws on Kant's theory of art to introduce how Durkheim sees ritual -especially sacred drama - as at once a symbolism and an aesthetics, complete with the energies of a free creative 'surplus'. Even if in the end 'the sanctuary' is unequal to the marketplace, it is a necessary refuge of the transformative social imagination and a realm, not of everyday economics, but of civitas.