Type or Style / 15


To wrap-up this series I will here summarize the most important findings and also address some open questions. I have distinguished between type and style. I define the types according to the course of the pathway. This can best be seen in the pattern (re. pattern see related posts, below).  I attribute labyrinths with the same course of the pathway to the same type (Type or Style / 6, see related posts).

I refer to style as a trailblazing way of the graphical design of labyrinths. I have first identified five different styles (Type or Style / 7) and then added the Knidos style by Erwin as a sixth style (Type or Style / 8). Type and Style complement each other. Defining the types according to the course of the pathway is clear, transparent and allows an undoubtful attribution of the individual labyrinth examples. If we would use the style a classification of the individual labyrinth examples would be less clear.

The following figures are meant to illustrate the relationship between type and style once more.

The two upper images from the first post (Type or Style / 1) are unusual. They show the two best known types as well as styles. However, they show the types not in their corresponding usual, but in the opposite styles. That is the Cretan type in the Chartres style and the Chartres type in the Classical style. The two lower figures show the types in their corresponding styles, that are familiar to everybody: the Cretan type in the Classical style and the Chartres type in the Chartres style.

A typology according to the course of the pathway is associated with some issues:

A vast number of countless types are thinkable. However, in practice there might exist some hundreds of types of labyrinths. Nonetheless the types must be aggregated further e.g. to sub-groups, groups, families or the like. And this should be done in a clear and comprehensible way.

There are only a few types that occur frequently, i.e. to which a number of various examples are attributed (the Cretan type, type Chartres and a few others). However, there exist many types that are represented by only one example at all. This could be taken in account of in a typology by separating two corresponding groups of types.

There are labyrinth examples in which the pattern may be difficult to obtain. It is therefore also concievable, that labyrinth examples may occur, that cannot be clearly and transparently classified according to the pattern.

So far I have restricted my considerations to unicursal labyrinths. However, an increasing number of labyrinth like figures is arising, that do not adhere to this principle any more. Basically one could create a category for the unicursal types of labyrinths and add other categories for other labyrinth like figures which could then be further subdivided to types.

Giving adequate names to the types is another problem per se. My way to deal with this is to give a type the name of the earliest published example. However I have not consequently adopted this rule. I have left unchanged the names of the most popular types, even if these had not been named after the earliest published example (e.g. Cretan type, type Chartres, type Ravenna, type Saffron Walden). Also this rule is not without problems as not all examples can be sufficiently dated. Furthermore there is always a possibility that an up to now unknown earlier example can be detected.

Related posts:

Type or Style / 9

A Brief Stylology

In my last two posts I have described six styles.  Of course, these can also be used to order labyrinths. I will show this here in an illustrative manner. I do not take the effort to group all or as many as possible labyrinths into the different styles. I will just use a few examples of each style to illustrate how such a grouping would work.



Labyrinth Examples in the Classical Style





Labyrinth Examples in the Concentric Style





Labyrinth Examples in the Man-in-the-Maze Style




Labyrinth Examples in the Chartres Style




Labyrinth Examples in the Reims or Bastion Style




Labyrinth Examples in the Knidos Style


Labyrinth Examples in other styles

Of course, with the six styles described above it is not possible to cover the entire spectrum of all labyrinths. Therefore I have added another group to capture other styles and attributed some examples of labyrinths to it. Among the many labyrinths that cannot be attributed to one of the six styles above, it is possible to identify other styles. This particularly applies to labyrinths of which several examples exist in the same style. This, for instance, applies to the last two examples shown in the other styles group (Other 8, Other 9).

We have now ordered the individual labyrinth examples by styles. The result is also a typology or at least an approach to a typology. The only criteriun we have used for the definition of the types is the style. We thus have defined: type = style.

Because style cannot be defined clearly and unambigously, to me it is not well suited as a criterion for the constitution of a typology. Based on style it is not possible to form a complete range of mutually exclusive groups or types of labyrinths. Furthermore, style does not show the essential of a labyrinth.

Related Posts:

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.

Related Posts

Another Quadratic Classical Labyrinth

Suitably to the preceding post I have been pushed to another type of quadratic labyrinth.

This week I received (as a TLS member) the third edition of Labyrinth Pathways. At the back the graphic of this labyrinth was illustrated. I suppose that Jeff Saward has designed it.

A quadratic classical labyrinth

A quadratic classical labyrinth

It accentuates the middle. The first path also lies on the middle axis as does the last path into the centre. This is possible by a blank (or enclosed) piece in the ways. The four points of inflexion (= the ends of the boundary lines) form no internal square. Both upper ones are located in the diagonals of the whole square.

Though the well-known basic pattern is totally shifted, however, the labyrinth has 7 circuits and the typical path sequence of the classical labyrinth.

The labyrinth offers many possibilities. Hence, it is amazing and fascinating time and again.