In quiet contemplation, people walk the labyrinth that fills the width of the nave inside Chartres Cathedral, France. Constructed during the second decade of the 13th century, there is little documentation regarding the purpose of the labyrinth. Some historians suggest that walking it served as a substitute for going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem when the Crusades prevented this journey.
With roots in a variety of pagan cultures such as the Mayans, Celts, and Native Americans, the labyrinth appears to be yet another symbol co-opted by the Christian church. However, regardless of faith, there are many people who consider walking the labyrinth to be a powerful spiritual exercise.
In contrast to a maze, a labyrinth has only one path that winds back and forth, supposedly symbolizing the twists and turns of our earthly lives. The loops and curves are said to draw the walker away from distraction and into a more meditative state. Some say you lose yourself in a maze and find yourself in a labyrinth.
The labyrinth in Chartres cathedral is arguably the most well-known labyrinth in the world, and as such it attracts pilgrims from across the globe. Disappointingly for them, it’s usually covered by chairs. However, on Fridays throughout the summer months, the Cathedral allows unfettered access to its famous floor.
Unsurprisingly replicas can be found across the world including Columbus, Ohio, Atlanta, Georgia, Bedfordshire, UK, Nelspruit, South Africa, Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, and Wellington, New Zealand. You can order full size and scaled replica kits online, and even Ikea sold a Chartres Labyrinth rug!
Stand here using a not very good spherical picture, but you’ll get the idea.