The Collaborative International Dictionary of English v.0.48:
Asylum \A*sy"lum\, n.; pl. E. Asylums, L. Asyla. [L. asylum,
Gr. ?, fr. ? exempt from spoliation, inviolable; 'a priv. + ?
right of seizure.]
1. A sanctuary or place of refuge and protection, where
criminals and debtors found shelter, and from which they
could not be forcibly taken without sacrilege.
So sacred was the church to some, that it had the
right of an asylum or sanctuary. --Ayliffe.
Note: The name was anciently given to temples, altars,
statues of the gods, and the like. In later times
Christian churches were regarded as asylums in the same
2. Any place of retreat and security.
Earth has no other asylum for them than its own cold
3. An institution for the protection or relief of some class
of destitute, unfortunate, or afflicted persons; as, an
asylum for the aged, for the blind, or for the insane; a
lunatic asylum; an orphan asylum.