Type or Style / 5

What is the Problem?

Let us come back to the use and purpose of a typology of labyrinths. I am presented a labyrinth and want to determine it. For this, I must be able to attribute it to an already existing type of labyrinth. Or I must state that it cannot be attributed to any one of the known types and therefore is a type of its own. A typology therefore has to group similar labyrinths to types and to specify different types for dissimilar labyrinths (see Type or Stle / 1, related posts, below).

However, what does this mean: “similar”? In what respect should the labyrinths be similar? Which characteristic do we have to consider as being similar or dissimilar?

Kern recognizes labyrinths with the same course of the pathway as being of the same type. This irrespective of their graphical layout or chronological appearance. To Kern, thus, the course of the pathway is the central criterion that determines the type (see Type or Style / 2, related posts).

The typologies by TLS and BL deviate from this criterion to a great extent. They do not explain how they determined their types and used varying criteria. In certain types this may be the course of the pathway, in others the layout or the number of circuits. In many cases it is not apparent at all, what defines the types.

So let us try to define types of labyrinths using some of these criteria consistently.

If we consistently use the layout as criterion, this means, all labyrinths with the same layout are of the same type. Thus, all circular labyrinths will be attributed to one type, all rectangular to another type and all triangular to a third type and so on. Applied consequently, the limitations of this criterion immediately become apparent. However, it can be refined. E.g. all labyrinths that can be quasi drawn freehand from a seed pattern resemble each other in their layout. Also more complex layouts e.g. with and without bastions can be discerned.

If we consistently use the number of circuits as criterion, then there will result types of labyrinths with 2, 3, 4, … , asf. circuits. Similarly, using the number of arms as criterion will result in different types according to the number of arms (in this case also including 1, i.e. the one-arm type of labyrinth).

A closer look soon reveals that all these criteria per se are not very useful. The resulting types of labyrinths will each contain a wide range of dissimilar labyrinth examples.

Now it is also possible to combine multiple criteria. For instance we could combine the layout and the number of circuits. This indeed is applied by the typologies of TLS and BL. So we can find classical types with 3, 11, 15, etc. circuits in the typology of TLS (see Type or Style / 3, related posts) or type Chartres original and with 9, 8, 7, etc. and type Amiens with 11, 12, 9, etc. circuits in the typology of BL (see Type or Style / 4, related posts). None of the typologies uses this approach consistently.

Here we have two labyrinth examples with quite similar layouts and the same number of arms and circuits. Let us classify them according to the previously described types or typologies.


Kern has classified them as of the Reims type (a) and of the Chartres type (b).

In the typology of TLS I can classifiy one example (b) as type „Medieval 11 Circuit“. However, as just this type seems to have been defined based on the course of the pathway, I cannot attribute the other example (a) to this type. And I don’t know either, where else I could attribute it to.

In the typology of BL I can imagine to classify both examples as of the Reims type. For this, however, I have to assume, that in this typology the layout is the crucial criterion that determines the type of a labyrinth.

But why at all should we not use the course of the pathway?

What is it that interests us most in a labyrinth? Is it the layout, i.e., whether the labyrinth appears in a circular, rectangular, octagonal form, with or without bastions? Is it the number of arms or circuits. Not firsthand I guess, although these are related with the most interesting feature. And this is the course of the pathway.

Related posts:

5 thoughts on “Type or Style / 5

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