Phase Three of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe is officially under way, and we simply cannot get enough. The introduction of the enigmatic Doctor Strange has left the Marvel Cinematic Universe disciples chomping at the bit for more. Concepts of reality, dimensions, and time now swirl around in the blissful stew that is the MCU, and many doors that lead to many more questions have now been opened. This article won’t attempt to answers those questions (this one will!). Instead, we will explore all the mysteries and secrets that exist within Doctor Strange’s headquarters, the Sanctum Sanctorum.
The bond between a superhero and his or her safe haven runs deep. Superman would not be the Man of Steel were it not for his his Fortress of Solitude, nor would Batman be The Dark Knight without his Batcave. The lair defines the superhero just as much as the superhero defines the lair.
Sanctum Sanctorum is Latin for ‘Holy of Holies'. It was a term created in an effort to describe the Tabernacle of Ancient Jerusalem. A place reserved for the holiest of men to share a same space with, and communicate with God. Reflect upon that image when considering the newest and most powerful MCU superhero, Doctor Strange, and his Sanctum Sanctorum.
Leaving out the obvious -- that it exists in Greenwich Village -- this list will take us through the top 15 Things You Need To Know About The Sanctum Sanctorum.
15 The Sanctum Sanctorum is Different in the Movie
It’s rare to see a movie that's a mirror image of its source material, and, in all honesty, who wants that? Seeing artists' different interpretations and renditions of an original source is always exciting. Fortunately, like with most other Marvel movies, the Sanctum Sanctorum is treated with respect on the big screen, and it proves to be a focal point of the movie.
In the film, the Ancient One is the Sorcerer Supreme, and the Sanctum Sanctorum is one of three structures around the world that are magically linked together. While the central base for the sorcerers in the film is Kamar-Taj in Katmandu, Nepal, it's magically linked to the three Sanctums of Earth, located in New York, London, and Hong Kong. In the movie, the Ancient One explains that thousands of years ago, ancient sorcerers established these Sanctums before the cities came into existence, because of the volume of mystical energies in those places. The Sanctums harness the energy upon which they were built, and act as Earth’s shield against the infinite possible threats that exist throughout the multiverse.
14 It's Built On A Nerve Center of Magic
Seeing as magic is sort of Doctor Strange’s profession, it would make sense that his headquarters would flow abundantly with mystical energies. Strange found a surplus of these energies when he stumbled upon the decrepit house in Greenwich Village, NYC. Dragon ley lines, the veins of magic that run throughout all the Earth, are prominent at the foundation of this building, subsequently making this location the most magical place on Earth (sorry, Disney World). What a fitting place for our Sorcerer Supreme’s Sanctum Sanctorum.
In Doctor Strange #2, we get a little backstory of Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum, and how it came to be in his possession. Once he returned to NYC, after his tutelage under the Ancient One, Doctor Strange came upon this decrepit house on Bleecker Street. The house was legendary to the locals. Residents believed the house to be haunted, but Doctor Strange, being the adept sorcerer he is, was drawn to it by the aura surrounding the house. This aura was, in fact, a byproduct of the magnitude of magical energies flowing through the grounds of the house. The purchase of this location gave Doctor Strange an unlimited well of magic, and helped further his understanding of the mystic arts.
13 It’s Bigger On The Inside
It seems as though doctors may be compensating for something; their homes always tend to be bigger on the inside. Doctor Who has his infamous blue Tardis, and Doctor Strange has his Sanctum Sanctorum. Both share the ability to travel and explore the Universes, and both exist as headquarters that are essentially functioning as their own dimension. In other words, they’re bigger on the inside.
To the naked eye, Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum appears to be a three story Victorian-style brownstone in NYC. As we’ve established, magic naturally flows through this location. This abundance of raw magic, though, is the cause of a few side effects. The Sanctum Sanctorum will move and shape itself into a labyrinthine alteration of both time and space. Rooms change and shape themselves. They exist and disappear, while corridors twist and slip between time and space. To put it simply, be sure to walk throughout the house with a trained sorcerer by your side, lest you wind up on a Penrose Staircase, and are doomed to walk in a perpetual loop for the remainder of your existence.
12 It Serves As The Headquarters To Multiple Superhero Groups
Headquarters are essential in a world when a group of ‘gifted’ individuals team up to take down foes in battles with enough destructive power to level cities. It would just be downright irresponsible for a group to not have a home base of operations. No more perfect candidate for such a place exists than the Sanctum Sanctorum. The Sorcerer Supreme himself has cast protective spells to ward off extradimensional villains from the premesis. Seems rather safe.
In Marvel Feature #1, The Defenders came into the fold. This group was led by Doctor Strange, and originally consisted of heroes such as Hulk, Namor, and the Silver Surfer. Their task was to aid in the defense of Earth from mystic and supernatural threats. It is fitting, then, that their headquarters was the Sanctum Sanctorum. During the fallout from the events of Civil War, the New Avengers were allowed by Strange to use the Sanctum Sanctorum as a place of refuge. They used the building as a secret base to hide from their enemies and from the government-sanctioned Mighty Avengers during the Superhuman Registration Act.
11 It Has A Dark Past
The concentration of magic at the Sanctum Sanctorum has existed since far before any European settlers set up shop in the New World. Therefore, there is speculation that this space has been used for its magical properties for millennia. It stands to reason that in a time span that long, a place with such a mass of mystical energy would be subjected to some darker exploitations. In Doctor Strange: From The Marvel Vault #1, we learn much of the dark history surrounding the Sanctum.
Native American rituals were performed at the site, and, upon the arrival of Europeans, pagan sacrifices were performed there as well. As time passed, the location became a mass grave for paupers and inmates, and, once a building was constructed on the site, it was used as a satanic cult’s place of worship, where human sacrifices were offered. There is no record of who originally built on the grounds, but that structure, and every subsequent building, has mysteriously burned down. The building we are introduced to as the Doctor Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum is believed to be seventh iteration.
10 Wong is the Sanctum Sanctorum’s Caretaker
The well read, Beyonce loving, stone-faced librarian from the movies is Doctor Strange’s closest friend and assistant in the comics, Wong. Wong has been around as long as Doctor Strange, as he was introduced as an unnamed character in Strange Tales #110, the same issue as the good doctor himself. He was sent by the Ancient One to assist and protect Doctor Strange, and Wong has continued to loyally serve Strange throughout his career as Sorcerer Supreme.
Wong was the first member of his family, a long line of servants to the Sorcerer Supreme, to travel to America. Serving the mystic arts devoted to good is a tradition in the Wong family that dates back over a thousand years. These duties to the Sorcerer Supreme within his Sanctum Sanctorum include, but are not limited to, chef, housekeeper, martial arts trainer, mystical guardian, and insatiable adventurer. Wong checks all the boxes. In Doctor Strange #2, he kills a group of vile, extradimensional vermin, and cooks them up for their guest, Zelma. Talk about service with a smile!
9 Doctor Strange is a Landlord
Leaky faucets, busted air conditioning in the summer time, late rent; these are pretty standard problems a landlord faces. Now imagine your landlord is the Sorcerer Supreme, bestowed with powers to defend the Earth Dimension. Your problems are bound to bump up a few points on the intensity scale. Being an occasional base of operations for two separate super groups, you can imagine that the tenants of this location can be quite the handful.
Aside from Wong, the Sanctum Sanctorum has been home to Valkyrie (aka Brunnhilde), a goddess, shield maiden of Asgard. She joined the ranks of the Defenders during their battle against Casiolena, and subsequently became a mainstay resident in the Sanctum Sanctorum. Accompanying her was her intelligent Aragorn (no, not Strider), the Pegasus of Asgard. This majestic, winged creature first arrived on the scene in Avengers #48, and eventually found his way under the care of Valkyrie. In Defenders #66-68, he assisted Valkyrie and the Defenders in the defeat of Casiolena.
Another resident was Clea, the niece of Dormammu, Doctor Strange's lover/ex-wife, and also his apprentice. Talk about mixing work with pleasure. So the residents in the Sanctum Sanctorum were a god-like alien from another dimension, her intelligent winged horse with his own courtyard adjacent stables, and a lover and student of the Sorcerer Supreme. Well, aside from the eclectic mix of characters in this one location, one thing is certain: the amenities in the Sanctum Sanctorum must be out of this world.
8 The Sanctorum is a Prison
In case you forgot, here’s a refresher. The Sanctum Sanctorum is full of mystical energy, and it's shrouded in a history of questionable practices on its grounds. The nature of the grounds, accompanied by the events that took place on them, has essentially shaped the Sanctum Sanctorum to be what it is today. So, it makes sense that the Sanctum would also double as a prison. You could argue that it is the safest place in Earth’s Dimension.
In Doctor Strange: This Old House, we learn that hundreds of years before Doctor Strange took up residence in the Sanctum Sanctorum a powerful Native American Indian Shaman cursed the land on which the Sanctum rests, binding the chaos-entity, Tyanon, to her, and barring the entity entry to Earth. Tyanon lay dormant, relying on her Familiar (a minion) to gain mystical energy, until the night after Doctor Strange first purchased his Sanctum Sanctorum. It was then that he battled Tyanon into submission, banishing her from this plane of existence and trapping her Familiar in a warded suppression box locked away in the Sanctum.
7 The Sanctum Sanctorum Houses the Nexus of All Realities
The Doctor is in…another dimension. He is often in other dimensions and realities. That is the nature of his occupation, and we love him for it. In Fear #11, readers were introduced to a portal unlike any other: the Nexus of All Realities, a cross-dimensional portal which acts as a conduit to travel to any and all possible realities, including realities between realities. It is one of the more powerful objects in the Marvel universe, given its potential.
Now, let’s stick with this same vein of realities and dimensions. When Doctor Strange is involved, anything is possible, and things tend to get a bit wonky. Enter Earth-2772. In Doctor Strange: The Sorcerer Supreme Animated Film, the Nexus of All Reality is housed in the Sanctum Sanctorum. In this reality, the Ancient One is still the Sorcerer Supreme, and he was charged with the defense of this center of all dimensions from the dark demon god Dormammu of the Dark Dimension.
There are some other accounts that consider the Sanctum Sanctorum, itself, to be the physical manifestation of the Nexus of All Realities. This is something that might be explored by Marvel, given the upcoming Infinity War.
6 The Window is the Seal of the Vishanti
Each superhero needs a symbol, their iconic trademark that withstands time. Imagine Batman without his spotlight in the sky. Nothing would ever get solved! Doctor Strange has a symbol, too, though it’s not what you would expect it to be. The shape that exists in every single artist's rendition of the Sanctum Sanctorum’s third-floor window, is in fact Doctor Strange’s symbol. The design of his symbol is the Seal of the Vishanti, also called the “Window of the Worlds."
For those who are unaware, the Vishanti are three benign, god-like, Principalities that exist in their own realm. The three Vishanti are comprised of Omnipotent Oshtur, Hoary Hogarth, and Agamotto the All-Seeing, and together, this triumvirate acts as one to empower the magical spells of sorcerers, throughout realities and dimensions, who invoke them. So, Doctor Strange’s symbol can be seen as an homage to the Vishanti who empower his spells and help protect Earth-Dimension from all vengeful entities. Moreover, the Seal of Vishanti itself protects the Sanctum from a myriad of supernatural threats. And here we are, desperately searching for windows that drown out street-level noises.
5 The Sanctum Sanctorum is in Google Maps
Google is the search engine of the people. They turned their maps into Pacman for crying out loud! How much fun was that? So it came as little surprise that when you typed ‘Doctor Strange Sanctum Sanctorum’ into Google Maps, you were taken to the mysterious and not so secret hideout of our favorite Sorcerer Supreme.
Spotted by a perceptive fan, Strange’s Sanctum Sanctorum quickly became a hotbed for some very exceptional Google reviews. Patrons of the Doctor were exiting the Sanctum cured of all ailments ranging from demonic possession to the reversal of enchanted items, and all left 5 out of 5 stars. It would seem that despite the transformation Strange made while becoming Sorcerer Supreme, he retained his stellar bedside manner. When you drop that ‘little Google man’ into street view, you’ll also see that Doctor Strange has disguised the Sanctum Sanctorum to be sandwiched between a tattoo parlor and a typical NYC bodega. It’s good to see that, despite the publicity, Strange is still taking the necessary security precautions.
4 It Contains Doors to Other Dimensions
The Sanctum Sanctorum’s halls often shape and form themselves into labyrinths that only sorcerers can understand. Rooms will disappear and reappear at will. Some of these rooms, though, will take you to a place beyond description. It is only fitting that the god-defying, reality and dimension traveling superhero would live in a mansion that spawns doors to other worlds.
Doctor Strange #2 shows these doors at work when trying to track down extradimensional leeches that have invaded the Sanctum Sanctorum in search of magic to devour. In this story, Doctor Strange and Zelma, his future librarian, get split up, and while they are separated, Zelma opens a door. Much to her dismay, she opens a door to a hellish dimension full of zombies who rushed toward her, as she is a prime candidate for ‘meat for eating’. Thankfully, Zelma keeps her wits about her and is able to evade danger. One thing is certain: when receiving directions to the bathroom, be sure to pay close attention. You don’t want to take the second door on the left, after the sentient, floating cloak, and wind up on Dormammu’s doorstep.
3 The Sanctum Sanctorum was Disguised as a Starbucks
The Sanctum Sanctorum doesn’t typically take on disguises. Instead, spells are cast by the Sorcerer Supreme that protect the Sanctum and make it difficult to notice, even to those walking past it on the street. There have been darker times, though, when Doctor Strange was pressured to disguise the building so nobody would be able to notice it.
After the events of Civil War, and during the Dark Reign, when heroes fell and super villains ascended to power, Doctor Strange turned his Sanctum Sanctorum into a refuge as well as the headquarters for the New Avengers. As one of his protective measures, he magically disguised his home to appear as a decrepit building that bore a sign saying ‘Neighborhood Starbucks Coming Soon’. This disguise was so thorough that it maintained it’s run-down aesthetic on the inside, even when those who were looking for the New Avengers entered the premises. Some would argue this was for the best, though. The last thing NYC needs is another Starbucks.
2 The Third Floor is Actually the Sanctum Sanctorum
Doctor Strange’s headquarters is known to be located at 177A Bleecker St., in NYC. We’re gonna get a little technical here, and point out that that’s not entirely accurate. In fact, it is the third floor of his house that is essentially the truest form of the Sanctum Sanctorum. The first floor consists of living rooms, the dining room, Wong’s kitchen, and the general library. The second floor is the living quarters for Strange and Wong, and any guests they have, be they Defender or New Avenger. The third floor, however, is specifically the Sanctum Sanctorum.
It's on this floor that Strange conducts his studies and meditation, and it's the location of his library of the occult. Among this library is the Book of the Vishanti, an indestructible book containing the largest amount of information of white magic known on Earth. In addition to the library, the Sanctum Sanctorum also holds Earth’s largest collection of ancient and enchanted objects, including the Orb of Agamotto. This orb is a magical item that grants Strange the power of detecting and vision. It’s safe to say the third floor is generally off limits to guests.
1 The Sanctum’s Cellar is Full of Pain and Suffering
Well, the guided tour of the Sanctum Sanctorum is coming to a close. We’ve learned the history of the location, its significance, and what each floor was designated for, but we’ve left one floor off the tour: the cellar.
In Doctor Strange #8, Doctor Strange battles against the Empirikus, a powerful zealot whose only purpose is to bring about the extinction of all magic throughout reality in the name of science. The villainous being defeats Doctor Strange and begins ‘purging’ the Sanctum Sanctorum of all magical objects and books. It’s then that one of Empirikus’ henchmen stumbles upon the thing dwelling in the cellar. This thing, aka Mister Misery, was the living embodiment of all the pain and suffering Doctor Strange has endured as Sorcerer Supreme. As the Ancient One taught him during a flashback in Doctor Strange #4, all magic comes at a cost, and the greater the spell, the more substantial the cost. So Doctor Strange and Wong devised a plan to transfer all the negative repercussions of magic into a living, sentient host that they kept locked away in the basement. This monster was inadvertently freed by Empirikus’ minions, and teamed up with Doctor Strange to eventually defeat Empirikus.
Did we forget any key elements of the good doctor's home base? Is there something better you’d like to add on? Let us know in the comments!
Doctor Strange is in theaters now.