What is a Labyrinth » Christian Labyrinths
One of the earliest Christian labyrinths is in the 4th century basilica of Repartus at Orleansville in Algeria. It is set in a pavement near the church entrance, and is c. 2.4 metres (8 feet) wide. The words Sancta Eclesia in the centre distinguishes it from the Roman pavement labyrinths, which it otherwise resembles in form. There is also a labyrinth in the 4th century Roman basilica at El Asnam in Algeria.
During and after the Reformation in Europe many labyrinths were destroyed for one reason or another. This destruction includes six of the seven medieval labyrinths in the “new Jerusalem” Cathedrals, the only one remaining being at Chartres Cathedral.
In the 1990s there was a major resurgence of interest in labyrinths. One of the characteristics of the Western post-modern society is that many people search for meaning and purpose in life outside the traditional church organizations. The labyrinth seems to speak to people as a spiritual tool.
A key part of this renewal has been instigated by Dr Lauren Artress, Canon for Special Ministries at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco during the 1990s. Dr Artress founded the Veriditas Project, initiated the construction of two permanent labyrinths at Grace and set up a labyrinth planting programme.
The Veriditas Project sent out over 800 ‘seed kits’ world-wide to groups looking for help to build their own labyrinth and was in touch with some 500 groups internationally. They also sold numerous full size portable labyrinths and smaller finger labyrinths.
Dr Artress had a vision of labyrinth walking around the world as a preparation for entering the new Millennium, and Frederic Wallis House labyrinth users joined in.
Labyrinth building is now taking place in churches, retreat centres, schools, hospitals, prisons, cemeteries and open public spaces. Predominantly this is occurring in North America and Europe but the numbers in the Southern Hemisphere are also on the increase. The labyrinth at Frederic Wallis House was the first permanent outdoor labyrinth in Australasia and since relocation is now the first permanent outdoor labyrinth in an Australasian hospital.