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The Chartres labyrinth occurs in many variations. Here I speak of the 11 circuit Chartres labyrinth as a type. Some elements of the original labyrinth in the Cathedral at Chartres, such as the six petals in the middle and the lunations  around the outermost perimeter, belong to the style Chartres.

For me the type Chartres exists above all in the layout of the paths.  One goes in quickly (on the 5th circuit) and one quickly approaches the middle (6th and 11th circuit). Then follows the wandering through all quadrants. The access of the centre happens from completely outside (1st circuit) quickly about the 6th and 7th circuit into the centre.

Theoretically there are lot of possibilities to build similar types to the Chartres labyrinth. They can be found worldwide. However, the original Chartres labyrinth owns many special qualities which make it an extraordinary example among the Medieval labyrinths. Among others, it is self-dual and symmetrical.

Layout of the 11 circuit Chartres labyrinth

Layout of the 11 circuit Chartres labyrinth

Hence, the original can be divided in labyrinthine mathematics (11:2=5) in two equal labyrinths. I cut it into two parts, by omitting the 6th circuit. Thereby I get two new, yet identical 5 circuit labyrinths in a Chartres-like layout: I quickly reach the middle and finally enter the centre directly from the outermost circuit. The way in between shows the labyrinthine pendular movement, that Hermann Kern describes as characteristic for a labyrinth.

Layout of the 5 circuit Chartres labyrinth (Demi-Chartres)

Layout of the 5 circuit Chartres labyrinth (Demi-Chartres)

How should we now name this type of labyrinth? To me the name 5 circuit Chartres labyrinth seems properly to differentiate it from other 5 circuit Medieval labyrinths with another layout for the paths.
I would like to call it Demi-Chartres.

Just now you may see a nice example for the practical realisation in Vienna on the Schwarzenbergplatz in the temporary plant labyrinth to the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018:

The temporary plant labyrinth on the Schwarzenbergplatz at Vienna © Lisa Rastl

The temporary plant labyrinth on the Schwarzenbergplatz at Vienna © Lisa Rastl

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The Babylonian visceral labyrinths have found entrance in the modern medicine. In quite an unusual way. A labyrinth-like chip serves for the diagnosis of cancer cells in the blood. The labyrinthine arrangement of the fluid channels shows up to be an effective tool to isolate circulating cancer cells in the blood. That means that the curvature and the tortuous route in the labyrinth is especially useful.

Labyrinth-Chip

Labyrinth-Chip, Photo courtesy of the University of Michigan, © Joseph XU, Michigan Engineering Communications & Marketing

What kind of labyrinth is this now?
At first sight it reminds of a medieval labyrinth, as it is the famous Chartres labyrinth. It has ten circuits in three sectors, in one these are eight. They will not be traversed one after the other, but reciprocally. And then it has two accesses: An entrance and an exit. It is a walk-through  labyrinth as we know that of the Babylonian labyrinths. Hence, we have an own, new type. And we see the pathway in the labyrinth, Ariadne’s thread. This reminds us of the Greek myth of the Minotaur, which is to be combated like cancer here.
If the Babylonian visceral labyrinths served for the divination, here the labyrinth serves the medicine.
This reminds me of “Ancient Myths & Modern Uses“, the book about labyrinths of Sig Lonegren.

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During the labyrinth congress in Latvia I could also experience a pavement labyrinth type Chartres besides the classical labyrinth and the Baltic wheel. Vita and Viesturs put it on in 2010 beyond the property on a meadow at the edge of the forest. The photo of a similar labyrinth in the gardens of the world in Berlin Marzahn was obviously taken as model for this labyrinth. They probably did not have an exact plan. Thus I have taken some measurements and developed this drawing:

The layout

The layout

The paths and the limitation lines are each 40 cm wide. The paths are formed by 6 rows of bright granite stones, the limitation lines by 7 rows of dark stones. The middle has a diameter of 1.80 m, built of 8 rows of bright stones and the center piece measures 80 cm in diameter. The center piece is formed by one single plate of reddish granite with a width of 80 cm and has a slightly convex shape.

The paths and lines are framed by 7 rows of dark stones in a width of about 77 cm. The paved surface has therefore a diameter of 21 m. A 2.50-m-wide way from grit joins this, surrounded by bigger fieldstones.
The path length from the outside up to the central midpoint amounts to a total of 371 m.

The labyrinth ist to be recognized on Google Earth. The geographic coordinates are N 56° 58′ 55″, E 23° 18′ 9″.

Aerial view

Aerial view

Here are some photographic impressions:

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Many of those who are involved with labyrinths use the rectangular form, e.g. Jo Edkins, Niels Mejlhede Jensen, some authors in Caerdroia and many others. Erwin and myself have used it in many posts on this blog. Not all use the same rectangular form and not all use it the same way. However they all intend to achieve a better understanding of the labyrinth. In the following I show some examples with the rectangular form of the Chartres labyrinth.

RFChartresSteafel

Figure 1

Thorn Steafel (fig. 1) uses the rectangular form for the walls obtained with method 1 in order to compare the patterns of the Chartres and the Bayeux labyrinths (Steafel T. Reappraising the Bayeux Labyrinth. Caerdroia 2014; 43: 40-45).

RFChartresEdkins

Figure 2

Jo Edkins shows on his website the rectangular form  for the Ariadne’s Thread using method 1 and analyzes the course of the pathway (fig. 2).

diagram_chartres_rechteck_dual

Figure 3

The same rectangular form (for the Ariadne’s Thread, applying method 1) is used by Erwin in this post (fig. 3). He analyzes the course of the pathway and the duality. This latter can be seen in the different numberings of the circuits on the left and right outer sides. In all three rectangular forms obtained with method 1, the entrance is at bottom right and the center on top left.

RF Chartres

Figure 4

Since it can be read from top left to bottom right, I always use the rectangular form for the Ariadne’s Thread obtained with method 2 (fig. 4). This is the form I refer to as the pattern.

RFChartresJensen

Figure 5

Actually, Niels Mejlhede Jensen uses also the rectangular form for the Ariadne’s Thread obtained with method 2 (fig. 5). However, he starts from a labyrinth the main axis of which is oriented to the right. Therefore, his version of the rectangular form stands on one of the outer sides, the arms are represented in horizontal, the circuits in vertical order. The rectangular form or pattern shows the essential of a labyrinth without confusions that may be caused by circular or polygonal layouts, varying lengths of circuits, decorative artwork etc. This is useful for

  • the analysis of the course of the pathway. This may serve for further purposes such as
  • comparing labyrinths in order to identify communities or differences between labyrinths
  • presenting the inner structure and particularities of specific labyrinths
  • the research of relationships between different labyrinths
  • the demonstration of an important general property of labyrinths: the duality

The pattern provides an unambigous criterion for grouping similar and distinguishing between different labyrinths.

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Recently you could read something about the long and winding path in a classical labyrinth.
Today we want to look more exactly at the path in the Chartres labyrinth. This is quite an other type of labyrinth. It has more circuits than the Cretan labyrinth, eleven instead of seven.
We orientate by the original, that is since about 800 years on the floor inside the cathedral of Chartres. The ways are much smaller than they should be for a “open land labyrinth”.
It depends not only on the type labyrinth, how long the ways are, but also from the constructive form. So: How wide the ways are, how wide the boundary lines are in between, how big the middle is etc.
In the Chartres labyrinth we have a distance of 42.6 cm from axis to axis.

From A to Z: The long and the short path

From A to Z: The long and the short path

The direct way from “A” to “Z” straight across all boundary lines to the center of the Chartres labyrinth amounts to 6.45 m. This corresponds to half a diameter of 12.90 m.
The whole, long way from the entrance into the center amounts to 263.05 m by following all the turns. This proves a relation between the long and the short distance of 263.05: 6.45 = 40.78. So a much higher “detour factor” than in the Cretan labyrinth.

If I handle the thread at the beginning and at the end and stretch it apart, I will get a straight line which reaches from “A” to “Z” and which corresponds to the way into the middle, that is 263.05 m.
If I join together the beginning and the end, I will get a circle. The circumference corresponds to the straight line of 263.05 m. The diameter would be 83.73 m.
I can also make a square with the same size from it. Then this would have four side lengths of 65.76 m.

The following drawing, yet not true to scale, illustrates the different figures and the true ratio among each other:

Ariadne's Thread unrolled

Ariadne’s Thread unrolled

Don’t be surprised that the original labyrinth looks so tiny. This is due to the “detour factor” of 40.78. (To keep in memory: For the Cretan labyrinth this value amounts to 24.4).
The unrolled thread of Ariadne is much longer relative to the original labyrinth. The proportions in the drawing however are right.

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The Chartres labyrinth has many qualities. For many it is by far the most perfect and beautiful labyrinth.

The special qualities of the Chartres labyrinth are not recognizable at first glance. One must look at it more exactly and try to understand the structure and the principles of its design.

First let us explore the self-duality.

The layout of the Chartres Labyrinth

The layout of the Chartres Labyrinth

The circuits in the drawing are numbered from the outside inwards as well as from the inside out (and the same way in the next diagram below).

First we determine the path sequence for the way in, from the outside (0) inwards (12):
(0)-5-6-11-10-9-8-7-8-9-10-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-6-7-(12).

Now we number the circuits from the inside (0) outwardly (12) and then we read the path sequence for the way back:
(0)-5-6-11-10-9-8-7-8-9-10-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-6-7-(12).

We ascertain, they are identical. So the Chartres labyrinth is self-dual, sign of its extraordinary quality.

The rhythm and the pattern of movement of a labyrinth is manifested in the path sequence. In the Chartres labyrinth the path sometimes touches two quadrants, sometimes only one. But never three or even four quadrants. The biggest step width is five (from circuits  0-5, 6-11, 1-6, 7-12). Most often, however, the step width is one. The most typical step sequence in the Chartres labyrinth is for me at the beginning 0-5-6-11 and 1-6-7-12 at the end. One immediately steps inside, reaches quite directly the innermost circuit, then oscillates through the whole labyrinth, and reaches unexpectedly the center from the outermost circuit. This expresses the dramaturgy of this special pattern of movement.

Admittedly, the counting is laborious. But walking the Chartres labyrinth needs no counting. The real experience can also made by walking.


What’s about the symmetry?

Let us have a look at the rectangle form and give different colors to the circuits. The entrance is at the bottom right and the center is reached on top left. The circuits are numbered in both directions, i.e. from the outside in and from the inside out. The horizontal distances between S, E, N, W, and S in the rectangular form are of no importance, as it shows the structure (Andreas refers to it as the pattern).

The rectangular diagram

The rectangular diagram

Circuit 6 represents the middle in both directions, this is the reflexion axis. The green and the blue fields are alike. Rotation and shifting shows that they are self-covering. The yellow fields are the connecting elements. They run step-shaped in serpentines.
Andreas calls them Cascading Serpentines  (kaskadierende Serpentinen) . He sees in this an own principle of labyrinth construction. To learn more, have a look at his website (see the link below).

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On World Labyrinth Day 2012, a new labyrinth was inaugurated in front of the west portal of the Dom (Cathedral) of Magdeburg. The Magdeburg Cathedral is as old as the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Chartres. So it was natural to focus on the famous Chartres labyrinth. Thus it happened that 800 years after its construction from around 1200 a pavement labyrinth modeled on the original was created on this place.

The labyrinth in front of the west portal

The labyrinth in front of the west Portal

During the process of reconfigurating the complete Domplatz (cathedral place) by the city of Magdeburg, the first building project was the construction of the labyrinth. The Magdeburg Lord Mayor Dr. Lutz Trümper handed it over on 5th May, 2012. Cathedral preacher Giselher Quast blessed the labyrinth.
Gundula Thormaehlen (co-founder of the TLS) called over the heavenly forces from four directions with her mussel horn. The Martin Rühmann band contributed musically to the celebration. The banners pointed to the Kaiser-Otto-Year exclaimed for 2012 in Magdeburg.

Bird's-eye view

Bird’s-eye view

The concept and the implementing of the labyrinth rested in the hands of the landscape architect Daniela Süssmann from Magdeburg with her committed employees. For many years she had had the idea for building a labyrinth on the Domplatz. Now, finally, it came into being after many preliminary talks with the municipal authorities, the monument preservation, and the cathedral parish.

Layout drawing

Layout drawing

Special recognition is due to the company Barleber Naturstein Bau- und Pflasterarbeiten whose site engineers, foremen, and paviours moved a total of 47000 tessellated paving stones carefully and exactly.
In the middle of the labyrinth a big amethyst, to which curative forces are attributed, was incorporated under the paved surface.
Everybody involved in the construction has achieved a masterful work. Never before a labyrinth type Chartres has been put into practice so perfectly as a pavement labyrinth.

The six-petaled center

The six-petaled center

The width of the walkable paths amounts to an average of 40 cm and is built of Bernburg shellbearing limestones, limited by a 10-cm-wide line of dark basalt stones. The way from the entrance into the center measures about 287 m. The middle has a diameter of 3 m, thus, including the 113 lunations, a whole diameter of 14.45 m arises. The paving stones and the mortar between them are moved on a foundation of concrete and are integrated into the available, unbound granite pavement surface. Hence, it shows some expansion joints which will still fade, however. The whole surface in front of the west towers which are being restored at the moment shows an inclination leading away from the cathedral, so that the labyrinth is well recognizable.

Solemnization on May 5, 2012 at 1 pm

Solemnization on May 5, 2012 at 1 pm

Unfortunately, it was raining at the time of the inauguration at 1 pm, which, however,  didn´t cast a cloud over the happy atmosphere of departure. Thus Magdeburg has joined solemnly on the worldwide labyrinth movement all around the globe, under the terms of the World Labyrinth Day: Walk as One at one. Likewise the citizens have done three years ago on the 1st World Labyrinth Day in 2009.

The day after the inauguration

The day after the inauguration

After the end of the renovation works (probably in the end of 2012) on the west towers the west portal of the Dom will be visible again and the labyrinth can unfold his full effect as inviting symbol.

However, by now it is a sign for a new beginning, for return and coming home, which invites all people to walk it.

Magdeburg is worth a journey.

Here two short videos on YouTube:

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