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14 May 2005

4 names by which the Labyrinth is called

pat's pub
said... Now for that Labyrinth this the same labyrinth Umberto Eco is using in the Name Of the Rose ? this standard Labyrinth they used on the floors of medieval churches and in baroque english gardens ? Can't think of it now but this type of Labyrinth has a particular name....(sometimes I just hate it to be n non-intellectual)

Please forgive the delay ... the sign of Me Not Having a Clue to the answer to your question.

But now I am a certified Adept at Medieval Cathedral Labyrinths, and (courtesy, again, of the Boston College Alumni Memorial Labyrinth site), I have your answer.

I suspect the Labyrinth in Eco's "The Name of the Rose" is indeed of the same kind as the Chartres Labyrinth. And now I transfer this discussion to the Labyrinthologist of Boston College:


Historically, the labyrinth of Chartres has been referred to by four different names:

* le dédale (or maze, named after Dædalus, the legendary architect who built a labyrinth for King Minos of Crete).

Just as Theseus struggled against the Minotaur, so man struggles against evil, and is guided back out through the maze by Ariadne or divine grace. The labyrinth of Chartres, however, is not a complex maze but a single path with no hidden corners or dead-ends.

* la lieue (or league: which is a distance of about three miles).

Although the length of the path is only 260 meters, in the Middle Ages some pilgrims would walk the labyrinth on their knees. This exercise would take about an hour, or the time needed to walk three miles.

* le chemin de Jérusalem (or road to Jerusalem).

By walking the labyrinth, the faithful could make a substitute pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and be united in spirit with the Crusaders.

* le chemin du paradis (or road to paradise, the heavenly Jerusalem).

By walking the labyrinth, the faithful trace the path of our long and laborious life on earth, beginning with birth, at the entrance, and ending with death, at the center. The way out symbolizes purgatory and resurrection.

Across these interpretations of the labyrinth of Chartres, we see how medieval theologians and artisans adopted pagan myths and symbols to express Christian concepts.


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