Short history of labyrinths
The oldest known graphic representation of a labyrinth is carved on
a piece of mammoth ivory. This was found in a Paleolithic tomb in Siberia
and is older than 5000 BC!
Other early recordings of classical labyrinths are ancient rock carvings
in Spain (2000 BC), Italy (750 BC) and Morocco (500 BC). Examples of
classical labyrinths were also found on ancient Greek coins from Crete
During the Roman Empire square mosaic labyrinths were built with more
intricate patterns. Today some examples can still be seen at several
museums throughout Europe, among others the Vienna and Pamplona museums.
From the early ninth century Christian manuscripts began depicting classical
labyrinths labeled Jericho.
It is solved by walking. Kulungiswa ngokuhamba.
During the Middle Ages, the classical labyrinth symbol was transformed
to incorporate Christian symbology (i.e. the cross) and built in cathedrals.
Also known as pavement labyrinths, they were walked as a substitute for
the long and arduous pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Several pavement labyrinths
in cathedrals in northern France were known as "Chemin de Jérusalem" or
the Road to Jerusalem. Of the 80 cathedrals in France and Italy during
the Middle Ages, 22 of them had labyrinths.
The first known Christian labyrinth was built in Algeria in the Basilica
of Reparatus in Orleansville, dating from the year 328. It is small,
about 2,5 metres in diameter, square and in the centre is a word puzzle
that make up the words "Sancta Ecclesia".
The first known European church labyrinth is in the Church of St. Vitale
in Ravenna, Italy. This small black and white paved labyrinth has seven
circuits in a unique design, dates from the sixth century and is part
of a much larger octagonal pattern on the floor.
The best known authentic example of an 11 circuit Medieval Labyrinth
is the one in Chartres Cathedral, France, built in 1201. (As Dr Lauren
Artress, labyrinth master, so aptly says: "A labyrinth is not New
Age. It is Middle Age!") This labyrinth is the oldest walking-size
Christian path in the world and is 12,85 metres in diameter.
The modern labyrinth revival, which started in the 1970s, has birthed
labyrinths all around the world in public parks, private gardens, universities,
schools, hospitals, churches, retreat centres and prisons. Jeff Saward,
author of several labyrinth books, says: "Throughout the history
of the labyrinth, whenever and wherever society is undergoing rapid change
and development, the labyrinth has blossomed."