Accessible version



29.10.15 – 21.11.15


A remarkable structure arose from within the bombed-out remains of Temple Church in Bristol. For 24 days, 24 hours a day, the site was transformed into an intimate place of listening, in which to hear the city like never before.




Between 6pm on 29th October until 6pm on 21st November, Theaster Gates' Sanctum hosted a continuous programme of sound over 552 hours, sustained by performers, musicians and bands in a temporary structure within the shell of Temple Church, Bristol. Sanctum was Theaster Gates' first public project in the UK, produced by Situations, as part of Bristol 2015 European Green Capital.

Whilst open and free to visit day and night, the schedule remained secret.

Associated Events

Public Art (Now) masterclass
Wednesday 18th November 2015, Watershed.
Part of Festival of the Future City.


Theaster Gates

‘To make the thing that makes the thing.’

Theaster Gates performing at St George's Bristol
Archive House Library in Chicago, Illinois, 2014
Soul-food dinner at Archive House, Dorchester Avenue. Photography c Sara Pooley
Exterior of Dorchester Projects, August 2013, during B.A.R. (Black Artist Retreat), hosted by Theaster Gates

Theaster Gates is an artist, musician and activist based in Chicago. Trained as both a sculptor and an urban planner, his artworks are rooted in social responsibility as well as a deep belief system. Gates often works with architects, researchers and performers to create artworks.

For his exhibition at Milwaukee Art Museum in 2010, Gates invited a gospel choir into the galleries to sing songs adapted from the inscriptions on pots by the famous 19th century slave and potter ‘Dave Drake’. In another exhibition at Seattle Art Museum, Gates transformed the gallery into an audio archive entitled ‘The Listening Room’, incorporating a hand-built DJ booth spinning selections from the now foreclosed Dr Wax record store in Chicago, formerly an influential hub for jazz, blues and R&, in the 60s, 70s and 80s.

His most acclaimed work, Dorchester Projects, began in 2009 with Gates transforming a cluster of buildings on Chicago’s South Side into alternative cultural spaces. The artist used repurposed materials from across the city to rehouse retired collections of objects such as 14,000 books from the former Prairie Avenue Bookstore, glass slides from the art history department at the University of Chicago and 8,000 vinyl records from the Dr. Wax record store. Dorchester Projects has become a vibrant gathering point and place of work for many individuals from the neighbourhood.

Gates is winner of the 2015 Artes Mundi prize, the founder of the non-profit Rebuild Foundation and currently Professor in the Department of Visual Arts, University of Chicago.

Read more

Watch our Public Art (Now) interview with Theaster Gates

Visit the artist's page at the White Cube website

Watch Theaster Gates’ Ted Talk


Temple Church

Bristol’s Temple Church on Temple Street, off Victoria Street, was the first English parish church to be taken into ownership by the then Ministry of Works, and is today in the care of English Heritage. It is a Grade II listed building and scheduled monument and is popularly known as Temple Church because the original circular church was built by the Knights Templar, recalling the Church of the Holy Sepulchre that stands in Jerusalem.

Temple Church
Temple Church reactivated by Sanctum. Photo © Max McClure Courtesy Situations

It was one of the largest of only a dozen such churches in England and it appears that the Bristol Temple became the administrative centre for the order in the South West. By 1307, however, the order had fallen into disrepute and their lands were later confiscated and handed to the Knights Hospitaller. When the Knights Hospitaller were themselves suppressed by Henry VIII in 1540, the church was taken over by the parish.

In the 18th century the interior was refitted. The shape of the original Templar church is now marked out on the ground. The chancel is exceptionally long and flanked by the chapel of St Nicholas to the north and the chapel of St Catherine to the south. The famous tower leans 5 feet (1.6 metres) out of the vertical.

The church was bombed during the Second World War and gutted by the resulting fire. Only the shell of the building, dating mainly from the 14th century, remained after the bombing on 24th November 1940, 75 years prior to the arrival of Sanctum. Temple Church is not usually open to the public so Sanctum offered rare chance to step inside the building.

Find out more about the site here.



Over 1,000 performers have taken part in Sanctum. The schedule is secret, but find out more here about who has taken part. You can explore who played when on the Story page.

Visitor Information

When is Sanctum open?

Sanctum will be open until 6pm on Saturday 21st November, 24 hours a day.

Do I have to book a ticket?

Entrance to Sanctum is free and you can visit at any time of day or night without pre-booking. There is a limited capacity however, so at peak times you might have to queue for a while. Keep an eye on our Twitter feed @situationsUK for information on peak times OR...

if you’d prefer to reserve a place (and particularly if you are travelling from afar), we’d advise pre-booking an hourly slot (for an administration fee of £5) on the Reserve Entry page. There are only 14 reserved places per hour.

How many times can I visit?

As many times as you wish. To really get a sense of Sanctum, we’d encourage visiting more than once because the programme will change with the rhythm of the day and over the 24 days. You can come back as often as you’d like, and pre-book as many different reserved places as you wish (subject to availability).

How do I get to Temple Church?

Temple Church is located at Temple Street, just off Victoria Street in central Bristol, BS1 6HY. The nearest train station is Bristol Temple Meads, just five minutes walk away and the nearest bus stop is on Victoria Street (1, 2, 38, 39, X39, 70, 71, 379, A1). There are cycle racks and a limited amount of on-street parking in and around Victoria Street. If you are travelling by car, we’d advise using one of the NCP car parks in central Bristol e.g. Broadmead, Queen Charlotte Street or Nelson Street.

Click here for a map

Please note Temple Church is not the ruined church in Castle Park (that’s St. Peter’s Church). You can find Temple Church nearby, off Victoria Street, in the direction of Bristol Temple Meads Station.

I’m visiting from outside Bristol, where can I stay?

Visit Bristol has information about a diversity of accommodation across Bristol

You might also like to know about Human Hotel.

What do I need to bring with me?

Whilst the structure is sheltered, we’d advise dressing for an outdoor performance in warm clothing. There is a minimal amount of seating within the space, and so you might like to bring along a cushion or blanket to sit in if you’re intending to sit for an extended period of time on the floor. If it's raining it would be worth bringing an umbrella just in case you have to queue.

Can I bring food and drink?

Yes, you’re welcome to bring in your own drinks and food, particularly if you’d like to share it around. Please take any litter home with you or recycle in the bins provided on site. The consumption of alcohol is not permitted on-site and please don't bring glass in to Sanctum.

Who will be at Temple Church during the night?

Our hosts and security team will be looking after Sanctum round-the-clock throughout the 24 days, so there will always be someone at Temple Church to welcome you.

Is Sanctum suitable for children?

Absolutely. Children of all ages are welcome. We will be scheduling adult appropriate performances between 9pm and midnight. For visitors with babies, we might just ask you to leave a buggy at the entrance if capacity is full.

Can I bring my dog in to Sanctum?

Unfortunately only Guide Dogs are permitted inside Sanctum.

How do I find out who is performing?

The performers, musicians and participants will be announced, but the schedule will remain secret throughout, so you won’t know who you are going to hear at any one time.

Are there fixed times for each performance?

The length of performances will vary, so you might hear someone perform for 15 minutes, followed by a group performing for over an hour. Theaster has encouraged all performers to engage with each other, with each handover being kept informal and conversational.

Is Theaster Gates performing?

Theaster took part in Sanctum at unannounced times during the first week.

Can I attend if I have access requirements?

Yes, absolutely. The entrance to Sanctum has level access and large print versions of the programme are available on request. The hosts on-site will be happy to assist you and can offer audio-description to those with a visual impairment. A hearing loop is provided on-site also. Should you wish to discuss your access requirements prior to visiting, please call the Situations office on 0117 930 4282.

What facilities are available on site?

Bristol Street Food Collective (BEATS) are providing food and drinks to buy on-site throughout the 24 days. Toilet facilities are available as well as an information point from which the programme and other special items are available to purchase.

Can I take photos, video etc.?

Yes and please do share on social media using the hashtag #sanctumbristol. There may be some performers who would prefer us not to take photos or record video, in these cases, we'll advise audiences in the space.

For any further enquiries, please contact

[email protected]
0117 930 4282