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.

Related Posts:

Sigmund Gossembrot / 4

The Four Labyrinths with 4 Arms und 8 Circuits

Four drawings by Gossembrot show labyrinths with 4 arms and 8 circuits. Among these, two each are on a circular and rectangular layout. Figure 1 shows these four figures compared. Figures a (circular) and c (rectangular) have the same course of the pathway (=). This is also true in figures b (circular) and d (rectangular). The two circular figures (a, b) as well as the two rectangular (c, d) have different courses of the path (≠).

Figure 1. The Four Designs Compared

All four figures bear inscriptions in their centers.

Figure a (fol. 51 v): „Laborintus inducens et educens“ – labyrinth leading in and leading out

Figure b (fol. 52 r): „Laborintus tamen educens nunquam intus perveniens fines“ – labyrinth leading out but nowhere arriving at the center

Figure c (fol. 52 v below): „Ibi introis et exis“ – here you enter and exit.

Figure d (fol. 52 v above): „Der Irrgang clausus est et numquam introibis“ the maze is closed and nowhere you enter.

From this we can see, that Gossembrot was engaged with the difference between labyrinth and maze. Figure 2 shows, using the lower, rectangular images, that the design of the side-arms in all four images is the same (areas within blue frames). The figures on the right side only differ with respect to the design of the main axis from those on the left side (areas within red frames). This becomes also clear from the patterns shown at the bottom of fig. 2. The left figures are labyrinths, the right figures are a special form of a simple maze. The pathway enters on the 6th circuit and there it branches. One branch continues to the first side-arm. There it turns to the 7th circuit, makes a full circuit and thereby traverses the main axis. It again turns at the first side-arm, leads back through the outer circuits 6 – 1 and arrives back in the other branch of the bifurcation. The innermost 8th circuit is completely isolated from the rest of the course of the pathway. It begins in a dead-end, does one round and ends in the center.

Figure 2. Labyrinth and Maze

So it seems, Gossembrot had derived a maze from the labyrinth. As a matter of fact, there exists a second historical labyrinth with the same pattern. This is sourced in a autograph (1456/63) of the Nuremberg physician and humanist Hartmann Schedel (see literature, below). The labyrinth drawn freehand was affixed to one of the last blank pages of the autograph. This autograph is accessible online in the same digital library as the manuscript by Gossembrot (further links, below). The original drawing of the labyrinth is oriented with the entrance to the left side. In fig. 3, for a better comparability, I have rotated it with the entrance to the bottom.

Figure 3. Type Schedel

Based on the earlier date (1456/63) of the publication by Schedel, I have named this type of labyrinth with „type Schedel“. Gossembrot was friends with Hermann Schedel, the uncle of Hartmann. The manuscript by Gossembrot dates from 1480. Having stated this, it has also to be considered that the labyrinth drawing of the Schedel autograph was affixed. Therefore it could also have been added later. Thus, it is well concievable that the drawings by Gossembrot were earlier and thus Gossembrot could have been the originator of this type of labyrinth.


  • Kern H. Through the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings over 5000 years. London: Prestel 2000, p. 126, fig. 216.

Related Posts

Further links

Wander, Labyrinthine Variations

“Wander, Labyrinthine Variations” is the title of an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou-Metz (France) which I want to visit on January 6, 2012 together with some people more or less eager for the labyrinth.

Everything is in French and the official title is: Erre, variations labyrinthiques.

A short extract from the description of the organizers (in English):

“Wander, Labyrinthine Variations” is an international group exhibition, which takes its cue from the model of the labyrinth, tackling the notions of straying, loss and wandering as well as their various representations in contemporary art.

Mystical, archaic forms, labyrinths and mazes are examined here as metaphors. They form complex figures that associate the image of non-linear progression through bends, curves, repentance and returns … whether architectural, mental, economic or structural in nature.

Though this sounds suspicious to be predominantly a maze; nevertheless, I am open for surprises. 

The exhibition runs since September 12, 2011 and still lasts to March 5, 2012.

Who wants to know more or may find out where to go:  Here is the link to the English introduction of the exhibition on the website of the Centre Pompidou-Metz.

Here a link to a trailer:

Erre, variations labyrinthiques du 12/09/2011 au …

Here an other one (still a little longer and in French):

« Erre, variation labyrinthique » au centre …

Dolen in dit doolhof: A kerkdoolhof (Church Maze) in the St. Martinuskerk at Oud-Zevenaar (NL)

On the 3rd of June, 2011 the Dutch Maze and Labyrinth Symposium 2011 offered two excursions. I have taken part on the route B which led as first to a kerkdoolhof: a maze in a church. It was very interesting and seems to be a little bit strange, but it was absolutely remarkable. I suppose that only Dutchmen can have such an idea.

Picture 1

Picture 1

Picture 2

Picture 2

Picture 3

Picture 3

The Saint Martinuskerk in Oud-Zevenaar is from the 12th century, in the 19th century near the entrance a maze from black and white records was laid on the floor. The black records form the way. The maze is square with 8 circuits (depending on how one counts) and an unambiguously recognizable centre in the middle.
The layout

The layout

If one has got the knack, the way into  the centre is to be found relatively easy. At every branch one must decide where to go: Straight ahead or turning to the right or to the left? Each wrong way ends in a dead end. Because one can see still at the branch where the dead ends are, one must not follow all the paths and can continue the right way. And, finally, after 10 decisions and 9 “completed” dead ends one reaches the centre.
The entrance is also not to be recognised immediately, but the outermost circuit opens only at one spot and this is the right access. With the trial-and-error method one finds out all that. I started, for example, in the centre and searched (and found) the right way outwards.

And the deeper sense for all that in a church? I suppose: none. Since a maze offers above all fun and play. Or does this make sense, nevertheless?
Ask the priest or a Dutchman.