Posts Tagged ‘Chartres type’

The notation with the coordinates is consistent, understandable and works well in one- and multiple-arm, alternating and non-alternating labyrinths. However, for a labyrinth with three circuits, at least 6 segments are needed (in one- and two-arm labyrinths: number of circuits times two, in all other labyrinths: number of segments times number of arms).

Correspondingly, the sequences of segments rapidly increase in their length with the size of the labyrinth. The Chartres type labyrinth e.g. has 44 segments, as have all other types of labyrinths with 4 arms and 11 circuits.



Here I present the sequence of segments of the Chartres type labyrinth for illustration. This is:

Nevertheless this sequence of segments is a well understandable instruction of how to draw the labyrinth. It reads about like this: Go first to the fifth circuit, walk along the first segment (5.1), then proceed to the 6. circuit and stay in the first segment (6.1). Next, go to the 11th circuit in the first segment (11.1) continue on the same circuit to the 2nd segment (11.2), skip then to the 10th circuit in the 2nd segment (10.2) asf. This also implies that from each coordinate subsequent to the previous it becomes clear, whether the path makes a turn (as from coordinate 5.1 to 6.1) or if it traverses the arm (such as from 11.1 to 11.2). However it is a long and complex series of numbers.

Now there are also various other possibilities to write notations for multiple-arm labyrinths that may have less digits. In any case, the labyrinths first have to be notionally partitiond into segments. However in some notations it is possible to combine multiple segments in one term. I will illustrate this here with the example of a notation for the Chartres labyrinth by Hébert°.


This is a notation comparable with the one presented in the post „Circuits and Segments“, where the segments had been numbered by circuits. In this case, if the pathway passes through multiple segments on the same circuit, the number of the circuit was repeated accoridingly. This, for the labyrinth of Chartres would result in 44 numbers. In the notation by Hébert the length of the sequence reduces to 31 numbers. However, each number must now be written with a prefix. For instance, „-“ indicates, that the following number is written only once, as the path traverses only one segment. A prefix „+“, on the other hand, indicates that the following number would have to be written twice as the path passes two subsequent segments. Thus, different prefixes have to be taken into account. And two prefixes will not be sufficient. Additional prefixes will be required to capture the pathway passing through three, four or more subsequent segments, or to indicate that the arm is traversed whilst the path skips onto another circuit. So while this notation is shorter it is also more difficult to apply. Furthermore it is subject to the weakness already discussed earlier, that, althoug it indicates the circuit, it does not indicate the segment actually covered by the pathway.

Other notations exist as well. I do not address this further here. It should have become clear that the sequences of segments in multiple-arm labyrinths rapidly increase in length and complexity. In most types of such labyrinths the sequence of segments is therefore not suited for giving a name. Just try to imagine to name the labyrinth I had shown in January with its sequence of segments. This labyrinth has 12 arms and 23 circuits and thus 276 segments.



I abstain here from writing down the sequence of segments of this labyrinth. It would fill some 14 – 15 lines.


To conclude, I want to come back to the original question whether the sequence of circuits can be used for giving names to the different types of labyrinths. I had two concerns about this:

  • First, in one-arm labyrinths this sequence was not unique. However this problem could be easily solved by adding a prefix „-“ only to those numbers of circuits where the pathway traverses the axis. Therefore in not too large types of one-arm labyrinths the sequence of circuits can be used for naming.
  • Second, in multiple-arm labyrinths the sequence will rapidly increase in length. It turned out that in these labyrinths the sequence of segments has to be considered and that this usually becomes either be too long or too complex or both. Therefore I consider it not suited for giving name in multiple-arm labyrinths.

° Hébert J. A Mathematical Notation for Medieval Labyrinths. Caerdroia 2004; 34: 37-43.

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Type in Style

For the typology of labyrinths I exclusively use one criterion: the course of the pathway. This becoms best apparent in the pattern. Labyrinths with the same pattern are thus of the same type. From this I distinguish the style. Style can be described as a trailblazing form of the graphical design.

Type and style complement each other. In many labyrinth examples it is possible to indicate the type and the style. However, it is not possible to indicate a style  in every example. At the end I will attribute the labyrinth examples I used in this series to types and, if possible, indicate also the styles of them. A list of the types used is given at the end of this post.


From post Type or Style / 1





Cretan type in the Chartres style






Chartres type in the classical style



From post Type or Style / 3






Cretan type in the classical style






Cretan type in the concentric style







Chalice: There exist historical labyrinths with the same pattern. I therefore name this type Abingdon (not shown in post but mentioned)





Trinity: type of it’s own (type Trinity) in the Chartres style





St. Anthony: type of it’s own (type St. Anthony)






Circle of Peace: type of it’s own (type Circle of Peace)






Santa Rosa: type of it’s own (type Santa Rosa; not shown in post, but mentioned)




From post Type or Style / 4






Chartres 8 circuits: type of it’s own  (type Regensburg; Cretan type with one additional trivial circuit at the inside)






Chartres 8 circuits: type of it’s own (type Charneu in the Chartres style).






Grey’s Court: type Grey’s Court






Ravenna 5 circuits: There exist historical labyrinths with the same pattern. I therefore name this type Compiègne






Chartres, 5 circuits: type of it’s own (type Emendingen)



From post Type or Style / 5

Reims 1




Type Reims


Chartres 5




Type Chartres in the Reims style


In order not to overload this post I interrupt here and will present the other types in my next post.


The types:


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Types and Examples

In my last post I have attributed some labyrinth examples to various styles. Here I will now attribute labyrinth examples to types of labyrinths. I have already described what is a type of labyrinth in post / 6 of this series (see related posts). I refer to single individuals of labyrinths as examples, irrespective of whether they appear as images, drawings, plans, laid-out built labyrinths etc. I will use the three types already described in my previous post and attribute a selected number of examples to each.


RF Kretisches Labyrinth


Examples of the Cretan Type


There exist a vast number of labyrinth examples of the Cretan Type. This is the type with the most examples. Great differences can be seen with respect to style or layout of the various examples. But all of them are alternating one-arm labyrinths with seven circuits and a level sequence of  3, 2, 1, 4, 7, 6, 5.


RF Reims


Examples of the Reims Type


There are only a very few examples of the Reims type. I know only two historical examples. Therefore in order to make one line complete, I have added a drawing of my own.


RF Chartres


Exemples of the Chartres Type


This is completely different for the Chartres type. This is the second most frequent type of labyrinth.

This type is also particularly suited to highlight the difference between type and style. As is known,  there exist a Chartres type as well as a Chartres style. So we just have to compare the labyrinths attributed to the Chartres type here with the examples from my last post (Type or Style /9) that were attributed to the Chartres style.

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Types of Labyrinths in Kern’s Book

Kern basically distinguishes between the Cretan type and all other types of labyrinths. For him, the Cretan type is a one-arm alternating labyrinth with seven circuits and the exact level sequence of 3-2-1-4-7-6-5 (see Kern°, fig. 5, p. 34).


Level Sequence of the Cretan Type Labyrinth in Kern°, fig. 5, p. 34

Labyrinths with such a level sequence of the pathway, irrespective of whether these rotate clock- or anticlockwise, show classical or concentric or other forms of layout, appear as petroglyphs, built of stone, drawings in manuscripts or else, are referred to as Cretan type labyrinths.

In all other labyrinths Kern sees variations or re-interpretations of the Cretan type Kern°, p. 27 and table pp. 28, 29). This refers not only to one-arm labyrinths with other numbers of circuits or level sequences of the pathway (such as e.g. Jericho type, Otfrid type), but also includes all labyrinths with multiple arms (e.g. roman mosaic labyrinths, Chartres type, Reims type labyrinths etc.). To summarize, we can find the following types of labyrinths in Kern’s book (Kern°, pp. 107 – 109).

  • Cretan; Cretan modified; Cretan (Jericho); Cretan modified, 6 circuits (Jericho); Cretan, 6 circuits
  • Chartres; Chartres modified; Chartres (Jericho); Chartres modified, 6 Umgänge
  • Otfrid
  • Reims

So, he differentiates between pure and modified types of labyrinths.

However, Kern’s claim was not to elaborate a typology. But for him the meaning of type was defined by the level sequence of the pathway. This particularly applies to his pure types. All labyrinths Kern had identified as being of the Cretan type, e.g. in the legends to the images, had the same level sequence. The same applies for the Chartres type labyrinths too. However in the modified types it is less clear.

It is fascinating to read how Kern in the first chapters of his book investigates the various leads of a possible genesis of the labyrinth. How he tries to fix a first historically documented appearance of the labyrinth. He does not find it in the „Cretan Labyrinth“ handed down by Plutarch, that has never existed as a building (chap. II). Nor can he find it in the buildings that have been named labyrinths in ancient times (chap. 3: the Egyptian Labyrinth, the Labyrinth of Lemnos / Samos, the Italian Labyrinth, Didyma, the Labyrinth of Nauplion). However, Kern states that the fundament of the Tholos of Epidauros is the only one historical building that can be justifiably referred to as a labyrinth.

Kern identifies other leads in the dances (chap. 2). However, he has to let it open, whether these have been danced in any labyrinthine form at all or even in the precise form of the Cretan type labyrinth.

But why then Kern gives the name „Cretan Labyrinth“ to this type identified by himself as the basic type?

He calls this type „Cretan“ after its presumed origin (p. 24), despite this presumption is in clear contradiction with the results of his own thorough research of the historical evidence. There is little doubt that this was the first type of labyrinth that can be documented reliably in history. Therefore it is absolutely justified to refer to it as the basic labyrinth. The first known historical examples of this type are not from Crete but from Pylos (Greece) or Galicia (Spain).

Kern, thus, has correctly identified the original type of labyrinth, but gave a name to this type that is against the results of his own research. To me it is a complete mystery why he did this.

Related posts:

°Kern, Hermann. Through the Labyrinth – Designs and Meanings over 5000 Years. Munich: Prestel 2000.

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