Sigmund Gossembrot / 5

The Two One-arm Labyrinths

Among the nine drawings by Gossembrot are also two one-arm labyrinths (see related posts, below).

The labyrinth on fol. 53 r has 9 circuits (fig. 1). In the center is written: inducens et educens, leading in and leading out. The design of the axis with it’s rhombus shape is eye-catching.
This almost looks a bit like an anticipation of the Knidos style… Furthermore, this is a non-alternating labyrinth. The pathway traverses the axis when changing from the 6th to the 9th circuit. I have highlighted this position in the labyrinth with two dashed red lines. To these correspond the dashed lines in the pattern. This pattern appears for the first time in the labyrinth by Gossembrot. Therefore it is a type of it’s own. I refer to it as type Gossembrot 53 r.

Figure 1. The Labyrinth on Folio 53 r

The labyrinth on fol. 54 v has 11 circuits and is designed in the concentric style (fig. 2). This type of labyrinth is also referred to as the scaled-up basic type or scaled-up classical / Cretan type of labyrinth. This, because the seed pattern in the classical style consists of a central cross with two nested angles and a coaxial bullet point between each two arms of the cross. The seed pattern of the basic type is made-up of a central cross with one angle and bullet point between each two arms of the cross.

Figure 2. The Labyrinth on Folio 54 v

There exist several historical examples of this type of labyrinth. The two earliest examples (fig. 3) are frescos in the church of Hesselager, Fünen, Denmark and in the church of Sibbo, Finnland (see literature, below).

Figure 3. Earliest Historical Examples (15 th Century)

Both were dated from the 15 th century without any further precision. Also, Gossembrot 54 v dates from the 15 th century (1480). Therefore, based on the dating, it is not possible to certainly identify the earliest preserved example of this type of labyrinth. So it is even conceivable, that the drawing by Gossembrot is earliest and thus Gossembrot was also the originator of this type of labyrinth.

Kern H. Through the Labyrinth – Designs and Meanings over 5000 Years. München, London, New York: Prestel 2000. P. 280, fig. 593; p. 281, fig. 601.

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Uninteresting Labyrinths With More Than 7 Circuits

Among all one-arm labyrinths with up to and including 7 circuits, there are no two uninteresting labyrinths complementary to each other. The reason for this is that in such labyrinths the pathway always must enter the labyrinth on the outermost circuit or reach the center from the innermost circuit (see related posts, below). However, there exist uninteresting labyrinths with more than 7 circuits in which this is not the case.

In order to show this, I begin with the example of the 11-circuit Cakra-Vyuh labyrinth (see related posts). Figure 1 shows this labyrinth and the pattern of it.

Figure 1. The 11-circuit Cakra Vyuh Labyrinth


As can be seen, the pathway enters the labyrinth on the first circuit and reaches the center from the innermost circuit. So, the outer- and innermost circuits can simply be cut-off (grey lines in the right image). This then results in a labyrinth with 9 circuits, in which the pathway does not enter on the outermost circuit and doesn’t either reach the center from the innermost circuit. The pattern of this labyrinth is shown in figure 2.

Figure 2.The Pattern of the Uninteresting Labyrinth with 9 Circuits

Because we removed the grey circuits, the course of the pathway in the remaining pattern is from top right to bottom left. If we want to show the pattern in the usual form, we have to mirror it horizontally. This does not affect the pattern itself nor the labyrinth related to it, except for the labyrinth changing its rotational direction (see related posts).

Even though the pathway of this labyrinth enters on the 3rd circuit and reaches the center from the 7th circuit, this is an uninteresting labyrinth. This, because it is made up of two elements of the type Knossos on circuits 1 – 3 and 7 – 9 (indicated with brackets in the right image) and three internal trivial cirucits 4, 5, 6 between them (indicated with dashes). Although this labyrinth is uninteresting, it is self-dual.

Parenthesis: This labyrinth has similarities with the well known basic type (former: Cretan type) labyrinth. However, the basic type is a very interesting (that is interesting and self-dual) labyrinth.

Figure 3. The Pattern of the Basic Type Labyrinth

As shown in figure 3, this is also made-up of two elements of the type Knossos. However, between these there is only one circuit. And this is by no means trivial as it is needed to connect the two elements. But adding further circuits in the shape of a serpentine will result in an uninteresting labyrinth.

Let us get back to the uninteresting labyrinth with 9 circuits. How does the complementary labyrinth look like? Is it may be also an uninteresting labyrinth?

Figure 4. The Two Complementary Labyrinths with 9 Circuits

In order to generate the complementary, we mirror the original labyrinth vertically and let the connections with the environment and the center uninterrupted. Then the pathway enters on the 7th circuit and reaches the center from the 3rd circuit. The three trivial internal circuits are still recognizable. However, they are enclosed by the axial pieces of the pathway that lead into the labyrinth and to the center. So they are nested one level deeper. Therefore, this is no more an uninteresting, but an interesting, and, as it is self-dual, a very interesting labyirnth.

Thus it seems, that also in larger one-arm labyrinths there are no pairs of uninteresting labyirnths that are complementary to each other.

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The Sequence of Segments in Multiple-arm Labyrinths

In one-arm labyrinths, each circuit is represented by one number. Therefore it is possible to capture even quite large labyrinths appropriately with the level sequence. In labyrinths with multiple arms, the pathway may repeatedly encounter the same circuit. Various possibilities exist to take account of this in the level sequence. For this, according to the number of arms, the circuits have to be further partitioned to segments. Here I will show a method in which all segments are numbered through.

For this I use an example of a labyrinth that has repeatedly been presented on this blog. It has 3 arms and 3 circuits.


First, each circuit is partitioned to three segments. One segment corresponds with a unit of the pathway between two arms. Next, the segments have to be numbered through. This can be done in different ways. Here I number them from the outside to the inside and one circuit after each other.


Now we can track the course of the pathway through the various segments. This results in the sequence of segments encountered by the pathway. In labyrinths with multiple arms the level sequence thus extends to a sequence of segments.

The sequence of segments of this labyrinth is 7 4 1 2 5 8 9 6 3. The length of this sequence of numbers is a result of the number of circuits multiplied with the number of arms. Thus, for a labyrinth with 3 circuits and 3 arms, 9 numbers are required. Whereas in a one-arm labyrinth with 3 circuits only 3 numbers are needed.

However, besides the numbers no other information is needed. The sequence of segments itself determines where the pathway makes a turn or traverses an axis. In one-arm labyrinths this had to be indicated additionally by use of separators.

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