Type or Style / 7

What is a Style?

What determines a style cannot be defined as easily and clearly as a type of labyrinth. Style can be described as a trailblazing way of the design of labyrinths. Usually various types of labyrinths can be designed in the same style. And, vice versa, the same type of labyrinth can be realized in various styles.

In the following I will show some styles. Please give attention to the figure and do not care about what is in it. Regarding the style, the numbers of arms, circuits or the level sequence have no importance. These are important for the type. We can also say: The style is not the content but the form. Or more sensually: What’s the wine for the enologist is the type for the labyrinthologist, and similarly the vessel is the style. Therefore I deliberately show the styles using a figure that is no labyrinth in the strict sense. This figure has one entrance and one access to the center, but only one circuit. It can be considered as a predecessor of a labyrinth. This also helps me to show that the style is something truly different, complementary to the type.

The classical style results if we start from a seed pattern and finalize a labyrinth quasi freehand. This results in a particular form of layout. There is no exact definition of this layout. Rather it may vary between almost circular and rectangular according to the drawer or the type of labyrinth shown in this style.


Figure 1. The Classical Style

Fig. 1 shows the essential features of this style. The center of the labyrinth is narrow and formed like a dead-end. The circuits on this side and the opposite side of the axis are shifted. Every one-arm labyrinth can be designed in this style; it is even possible to realize labyrinths with multiple arms in the classical Style.

The example in the concentric style shows best which figure I used for the presentation of the various styles.


Figure 2. The Concentric Style

The essential characteristics of this style are that the middle of the figure and the center of the labyrinth are matching. Also, the center is somewhat enlarged. The axial wall can but does not need to lie on a radius aligned to the center. A point in the center may but does not need to be visible. This style can often be found in labyrinths of manuscripts. In some of them one can see the central point where the compass has been applied.

The Man-in-the-Maze style has already been extensively described on this blog. It is a very good example for what determines a style: This is the original way of a graphical realization – in this case on a strict geometric grid.


Figure 3. The Man-in-the-Maze Style

Although they lie on a template of concentric circles, the MiM labyrinths are eccentric. In this style, the center of the labyrinth cannot lie in the middle of the figure. The middle of the figure matches with the center of the seed pattern.

Also the extraordinary design of the labyrinth in Chartres cathedral illustrates well what may constitute a style.


Figure 4. The Chartres Style

What particularly characterizes this style are the lunettes in the center and the lunations at the exterior of this labyrinth. Several labyrinth examples exist that adapted the Chartres style either in the use of the lunettes or the lunations or both elements of this style together. So, Chartres is also a style! We therefore have to deal with a Chartres type and a Chartres Style. We will have to come back to this later.

The same applies to the labyrinth of Reims too. We could also speak of a Reims style or a Bastion style.


Figure 5. The Reims Style

The labyrinth that has been laid out in the Reims cathedral also has a pioneering design. I do not primarily mean the lawful proportions and composition of the octagonal forms. This per se also deserves attention. However, what constitutes the Style is the bastions. Such bastions, also with varied, rounded shapes, have been adapted in many other labyrinths.

Many other labyrinth examples have special graphical features, e.g. Nîmes, Ravenna, Al Qazwini, Cakra-vyuh. Some of these are singular examples. What constitutes a style cannot be conclusively resolved. Which element may characterize a style, and whether only one or multiple elements be required to characterize a style will be controversial. However, what seems a central requirement to me is that a style can be found in various examples of labyrinths. So that it has influenced other labyrinths.

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  6. Dear Andreas,

    Thanks again for a very nice and important post!

    Sorry for not having responded to several others of yours and Erwin’s despite my intentions, due to time constraints, but this one is so illuminatingly crisp I couldn’t help to comment immediately.
    Indeed confusing style and type easily can lead to a superficial labyrinth understanding as some kind of ‘stype’…

    You know, in the framework of my narrow interest of finding a ‘credible’ if not ‘actual’ history of the unicursal labyrinthine types of the Chartres variety (which I personally feel as more ‘perfect’ than other ‘church’ types) I see (as an engineer) these types evolving from the Cretan/Cnossos/Classical (CCC) to the Chartres, to the Saffron Walden (turf ‘maze’ as the English call this ‘labyrinth’) and to beyond, while enjoying (as a visual artist) wrapping them in various clothes, i.e. styles. So, when using a possible unicursal labyrinth style definition as “a long path (line) imbedded in a small domain (surface)”, I happened to start this history even earlier than CCC with the Archimedean spiral I call a proto-labyrinth.
    And this is precisely the type you use here, in its first revolution, as the ‘Ariadne thread’ of your exposure of the type/style differentiation !
    Of course a side interest proceeds from the fact that the walls defining the unicursal ‘labyrinth’ paths (a single line with no choices and a final dead-end) themselves are multicursal ‘mazes’ (multiple lines branching into choices with multiple dead-ends), but as generating ‘labyrinths’, they are particular ‘mazes’ in that those dead-ends appear in close pairs that can eventually be connected with bridges/tunnels/japanese steps to form continuous circuits… I so often give different styles of what I call mini- and micro-Chartres types, respectively 7 and 3 ‘circuit’ simplifications of the 11 circuit Chartres type (the mini-Chartres, by the way, can be seen as an intermediate step between the CCC and the Chartres styles). See my (Samuel Verbiese) ‘Amazing labyrinths’ papers and artworks among the on-line Proceedings and Catalogs of the Bridges Conferences and Exhibits.

    Sorry again, this time for those somewhat labyrinthine sentences, but you see what I mean…
    Kind regards,


    • Dear Sam
      Thank you for your enthusiastic and inspiring comment.
      This one-cirucit figure has fascinated me for long. E.g. when considering the question how the simplest labyrinth looks like. https://blogmymaze.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/un-interesting-labyrinths/

      It is really a type, although not of a labyrinth yet. It is a PROTO type, as you name it, or even THE prototype of a labyrinth.
      Re. your side-interest. This prototye is also one but not the only type where the walls defining the unicursal path are unicursal themselves, i.e. they can be drawn in one continuous line with no crossings. I hypothesize here that all types of labyrinths with a seed pattern with only two dots can be drawn this way. These types have patterns made up of double spiral-like meanders with varying depths (single, two-fold, three-fold etc.), i.e. Erwins type 4, 6, 8, and so on meanders. These are the types of labyrinths that fill the cells of the first column here https://blogmymaze.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/the-cretan-at-the-crossing-point/

      Best regards


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