Posts Tagged ‘Reims’

In addition to the universally known labyrinth of Chartres and the less popular labyrinth of Reims a third, much less known, very interesting (interesting and self-dual) medieval labyrinth with 4 arms and 11 circuits has been preserved. This is sourced from a manuscript that is stored in the municipal library of Auxerre. Therefore I have named it as Type Auxerre.

At the end of this series I want to show these three labyrinths and their complementaries.

In the three following figures I start with the original labyrinth (image on top left).

From this I obtain the pattern by unrolling the Ariadne’s Thread of it (image on top right).

Then I mirror the pattern vertically without interrupting the connections to the exterior and to the center. This results in the pattern of the complementary labyrinth (image on bottom right).

Then I curl in this pattern to obtain the complementary labyrinth (image on bottom left).

Fig. 1 shows this procedure with the example of the labyrinth of Auxerre. This labyrinth is not recorded in Kern [1]. The image of the original labyrinth was taken from Saward [2] who sourced it from Wright [3].

Figure 1. Labyrinth of Auxerre and Complementary

Fig. 2 shows the labyrinth of Reims and the complementary of it. The image of the original labyrinth was sourced from Kern [1].

Figure 2. Labyrinth of Reims and Complementary

Finally, the labyrinth of Chartres and it’s complementary are presented in fig. 3. The image of the original labyrinth was sourced from Kern [1].

Figure 3. Labyrinth of Chartres and Complementary

With these considerations I wanted to point out that three historical labyrinths exist with a similar degree of perfection as Chartres. Together with their complementaries we now have present six very interesting labyrinths with 4 arms, 11 circuits and a similar degree of perfection.

[1] Kern, H. Through the Labyrinth. Prestel, Munich 2000.
[2] Saward J. Labyrinths and Mazes. Gaia, London 2003.
[3] Wright C. The Maze and the Warrior. Harvard University Press, Cambridge (Massachusetts) 2001.

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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.

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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.

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