Posts Tagged ‘The Labyrinth Society’

The Typology of the Labyrinth Society (TLS)

TLS publishes on its website a list of labyrinth types with the aim of unifying the terminology and providing clarity for a working labyrinth typology. In addition to true unicursal labyrinths, also many labyrinth alike figures were included.

This page contains an overview of the typology. It displays a hierarchy with three levels.

TLS Ebenen

Figure 1. Levels of the TLS-Typology

The terminology is not consistent. The highest level (level 1) sometimes is labeled „family“ or sometimes  „group“. In between there is an intermediate level (level 2). The lowest level (level 3) seems to contain the types. To these types are then allocated the individual examples of labyrinths

It is unclear, which criteria were used to define the types (on level 3) and which rules were applied to allocate the individual examples. What does this mean? In the following I will illustrate this showing some issues of this typology.

Alternating labyrinths with the level sequence 3-2-1-4-7-6-5, i.e. Kern’s Cretan type, can be found here in three different types of labyrinths: „Classical 7 Circuit“, „Concentric Labyrinth“ and „Meander“. Thus, the course of the pathway seems not to be the criterion that was used to define these types. Rather it seems, the layout and number of circuits have been applied.

In the „Classical Family“, a difference is made a.o. between a „Classical“ and a „Concentric“ group (fig. 1). Classical labyrinths can be drawn starting from a seed pattern, as shown with this example. The „Concentric“ group contains the type „Concentric Labyrinth“. But what is the use of distinguishing this type, given the concentric labyrinths can also be drawn starting from a seed pattern? Exactly this is shown with the first example of this type, which is a concentric Cretan labyrinth.

In the „Medieval Group“ (fig. 1), the example from Chartres cathedral is presented in the type „Chartres Labyrinth“. In the „Medieval Group“ there exists also a type „Medieval 11 Circuit (also known as the Chartres labyrinth Examples: Chartres, Amiens, St. Quentin)“. At present, only one example is shown in this type, the labyrinth of Lucca, Italy.

The labyrinth of Lucca, as well as the labyrinths of St. Quentin and of Amiens have exactly the same course of the pathway as the example from Chartres cathedral. Thus, according to the level sequence of the pathway, all these examples are of the Chartres type as specified by Kern. So in these cases, the course of the pathway seems to be the criterion that was used for the definition of the types. But why then the TLS typology creates two types? One type for the example from Chartres cathedral and another type for other examples with the same course of the pathway?

In the „Medieval Group“ there is also a subgroup „Contemporary Medieval“ (fig. 1). This includes the types „Chalice Labyrinth“, „Contemporary Medieval“ and „Santa Rosa“. To the type „Contemporary Medieval“, the three examples shown in fig. 2 are attributed.


Figure 2. Examples of the Type “Contemporary Medieval”

The right image is meant to illustrate the Circle of Peace labyrinth. The labyrinth cannot be discerned on the image. I already had in memory the Circle of Peace Labyrinth. So I looked it up in the internet and found this image of it.


Figure 3. Circle of Peace Labyrinth

This is a four-arm labyrinth with 7 circuits. So we can find in the type „Contemporary Medieval“ three quite different four-arm labyrinths with 3, 8, and 7 circuits. Why were these labyrinths classified as examples of the same type? Which rules were used to attribute these three examples? What they have in common is that they have four arms.

But why then were the „Chalice“ und „Santa Rosa“ labyrinths qualifed as labyrinth types of their own? These also have four arms and do not differ greater than the three examples of the „Contemporary Medieval“ type do. So they could have just as well been attributed as examples to the „Contemporary Medieval“ type too.

So it is neither clear which criteria were used to define the types of labyrinths nor which rules were applied to attribute the individual examples to the types. Furthermore the typology is not complete. Important medieval labyrinths are missing such as, among others, the Reims and Auxerre labyrinths. We also miss other labyrinths with four arms, labyrinths with 2, 3 or more than four arms. Also many one arm labyrinths are neither included as types nor as examples.

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