How to make a Classical (Minoan) Labyrinth from a Medieval Labyrinth, Part 1

Quite simply: By leaving off the barriers in the minor axes. I have already tried this with the Chartres labyrinth (see related posts below). But is that also possible with every other Medieval labyrinth?

As an example I have chosen the type Auxerre that Andreas showed here recently. This labyrinth is self dual as are Chartres and Reims, therefore of special quality. And they all have a complementary version.

The Auxerre labyrinth

The Auxerre labyrinth

Here the original with all the lines and the path in the labyrinth, Ariadne’s thread. The barriers in the minor axes are identical with those of the Chartres type. There is only another arrangement of the turning points (the lanes 4, 5, 7, 8) in the middle of the main axis.

The original Auxerre labyrinth without the barriers

The original Auxerre labyrinth without the barriers

The barriers are omitted. When drawing Ariadne’s thread, I found that four tracks could not be inserted. Hence, I have anew numbered the circuits and there remain now 7 circuits instead of the original 11. However, this also means that by changing this Medieval labyrinth into a concentric Classical labyrinth through this method no 11 circuit labyrinth is generated, but a 7 circuit.

The 7 circuit circular Cretan labyrinth

The 7 circuit circular Cretan labyrinth

If one looks more exactly at it, one recognises the well-known path sequence: 3-2-1-4-7-6-5-8. We got a Cretan labyrinth in concentric style.

Now we turn to the complementary labyrinth:

The complementary Auxerre labyrinth

The complementary Auxerre labyrinth

The complementary labyrinth is generated by mirroring the original one. The upper barriers remain, right and left they run differently and in the main axis, the turning points shift. The entrance into the labyrinth changes to the middle (lane 9) and the entrance into the center is from further out (lane 3).

The complementary Auxerre labyrinth without the barriers

The complementary Auxerre labyrinth without the barriers

As with the original, four lanes can not be inserted (4, 5, 7, 8). Therefore, the result is again a 7 circuit labyrinth. I renumbered the lanes and have redrawn the labyrinth.

This is how it now looks like:

The complementary 7 circuit circular Cretan labyrinth

The complementary 7 circuit circular Cretan labyrinth

The labyrinth is entered on the 5th lane, the center is reached from the 3rd lane. The path sequence is: 5-6-7-4-1-2-3-8. This labyrinth is not one of the historically known labyrinths. But it showed up in this blog several times (see related posts below). Because it belongs to the interesting labyrinths among the mathematically possible 7 circuit labyrinths.

The surprising fact is that no 11 circuit Classical labyrinth could be generated through the transformation. But for that  the 7 circuit Cretan labyrinth. Therefore we can say that the heart of the Medieval Auxerre labyrinth is the Cretan (Minoan) labyrinth as it is in the Chartres labyrinth.

Related Posts

Type or Style / 12

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:


Type or Style / 10

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.

Related posts:


Type or Style / 2

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.