Sigmund Gossembrot / 7


At the end I want to summarize some findings of the previous six posts on Gossembrot. In my opinion, two main aspects seem important.

New types of labyrinths

Gossembrot has created two labyrinths with unique courses of the pathway, and thus designed two new types of labyrinths. The five-arm labyrinth on fol. 51 r is an outstanding type of labyrinth. The one-arm labyrinth with nine circuits on fol. 53 r is one of the rarer non-alternating types of labyrinths. Furthermore, a third new type of a four-arm labyrinth is hidden in the drawing on fol. 53 v.

Gossembrot could also have been first in drawing the Schedel type labyrinth (fol. 51 v) or the scaled-up basic type (fol. 54 v). It is true, that the manuscript containing the Schedel type is dated somewhat earlier than the one by Gossembrot. However, the drawing in Schedel manuscript could also have been added later. The two earliest examples of the scaled-up basic type are dated from the 15 th century without further precision. Thus, they could also have been generated later than 1480. However, I think this is unlikely. Both examples (Hesselager and Sibbo) were desinged in the classical style – which is the style that best matches with the natural way of designing this type of labyrinth.

Approaches to mazes

Gossembrot was strongly involved with the difference between labyrinth and maze. This is well attested by the mazes he had derived from the labyrinths of the Schedel type (fol. 52 r and fol. 52 above) and, following an other approach, from the Chartres type (fol. 54 r). And also by the fact that Gossembrot took this complex labyrinth for his best labyrinth.

I think also that his rejected design on fol. 53 v is not a mistaken attempt to the five-arm labyrinth on fol. 51 r. But instead, it seems to me that this is a failed attempt to derive a maze from the five-arm labyrinth. This is particularly supported by the design of the main axis. This was amended in a similar way as the ones of the mazes (fol. 52 r and fol. 52 v above) Gossembrot had derived from the Schedel type labyrinth.

It was not until the 15 th century that the creation of mazes began. The first drawing of a maze by Giovanni Fontana dates from year 1420 (see literature below: p. 138, fig. 239). Gossembrot was one of the first to draw mazes. His mazes, however, are, even compared with some other ones by Fontana (literature, p. 238, fig. 240), still rudementary and are fully based on unicursal labyrinths.


Gossembrot undoubtedly has his great importance in the design of unicursal labyrinths. Even if he must have been very fascinated by the maze, such that he himself took a maze for his best labyrinth, his drawings still represent tentative approaches and attempts to mazes. Contrastingly, he has created awesome original designs with fundamental innovations in unicursal labyrinths.

Kern H. Through the Labyrinth – Designs and Meanings over 5,000 Years. Munich, London, New York: Prestel 2000.

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