Incubation

(Lat. incubare, “to brood”). The practice of sleeping in a temple or sacred place for oracular purposes was common in many ancient cultures, e.g., in the worship of Ascelpius, the patron of medicine. After the fall of paganism in the Roman Empire the custom was introduced into Christianity, and so the term came to refer to the practice of sleeping in or near churches or holy places in order to receive healing or visions. Certain centers, with which a saint was connected, were believed to have special possibilities for healing—e.g., St. Michael in the church of Anaplous, near Istanbul.