What is a Labyrinth » Labyrinth History
A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that represents a journey to our own spiritual centre.
They have been used in many different religious and spiritual ways by many peoples, amongst being used as solar and lunar calendars, Labyrinths have long been used for purposes of prayer, meditation, and reflection.
The labyrinth dates back to prehistoric time, and is perceived as a sacred space.
It has been an integral part of many cultures, such as Celtic, Mayan, Greek, Cretan, and Native American.
The labyrinth predates Christianity by 3500 years, from medieval times the labyrinth have been in Christian churches and spiritual places.
Some of the simplest and most ancient labyrinth patterns have been found in the Mediterranean and Celtic lands.
The oldest existing Christian labyrinth is probably the one in the fourth-century basilica of Reparatus, Orleansville, Algeria.
Christian labyrinth designs are modelled on pre existing labyrinths created by earlier cultures.
The new Cathedral labyrinth patterns are all laid out according to the same basic pattern twelve rings that enclose a meandering path, which slowly leads to a centre rosette.
The development of this high medieval Christian seven circuit labyrinth was a breakthrough in design.
Its path of seven circles was cruciform (shaped like a Cross) and therefore incorporating the Christian symbol.
Use of these labyrinths flourished in Europe throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries and beyond.
These are commonly referred to as "Classical" or "Cretan" labyrinths.
Chartres or Medieval Design Cretan or Classical Design
Prehistoric Labyrinths are believed to have been traps for malevolent spirits or as defined paths for ritual dances.
During the time of the Crusades, Labyrinths were built to provide an alternative, as not everyone could make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. To walk a labyrinth was symbolic of the journey. By walking the path, it was thought that you could you ascend towards salvation or enlightenment.
The centre of the labyrinth represented the Holy City of Jerusalem and thus became the substituted goal of the journey, for pilgrims.
The labyrinth also served as a metaphor of a “hard path to God”. The entrance of the labyrinth symbolised birth, the centre represented God.
Over time, the religious significance of labyrinths faded and they were used primarily for entertainment, although recently their spiritual aspect has seen a resurgence.
The best-known example of a labyrinth is embedded in the stone pavement of Chartres Cathedral near Paris.
Today, labyrinths are still being used throughout the world as meditative and healing tools.