Loyola University Chicago

Medieval Studies

Labyrinth of Amiens Cathedral

Type: Octagonal; Chartres-type pattern Status: Original Destroyed, Remade

 Amiens overview[1]

The Labyrinth of Amiens Cathedral is the second largest in France, being slightly smaller than its cousin in Chartres.[3]  Measuring about 12.1 meters wide, the labyrinth occupies the entire width of the fourth and fifth bays of the nave, and is thought to have originally been placed in the cathedral in 1288.[4]  Although it is octagonal, its tracks follow the same pattern as Chartres, which is why it is considered to be an Octagonal, Chartres-type labyrinth.[5] Comprised of “white-and-blue-black” stones, its entrance opens to the west, with the white stones acting as the labyrinthine obstacles.

Prior to the French Revolution, the labyrinth’s center comprised of a medallion which stated:

In the year of grace 1220, the construction of this church first began.  Blessed Evrard was at that time bishop of the diocese.  The king of France was then Louis the son of Philip the wise.  He who directed the work was called Master Robert, surnamed Luzarches.  Master Thomas de Cormont came after him, and after him his son Renaud, who had placed here this inscription in the year of the incarnation, 1288.[6]

 Amiens center[7]

[1] Source: Louis la Vache, “Les Cathédrales De France:Nôtre-Dame-d'Amiens.”  The Frog Blog Of Louis La Vache. Web. 07 Mar. 2010. <http://frogblog-lavache.blogspot.com/2005/12/les-cathdrales-de-francentre-dame.html>.

[2] Source: "Labyrinth Design on Interior of Amiens Cathedral - Rights Managed - Corbis." Stock Photography, Illustration and Footage – Corbis. Web. 07 Mar. 2010. <http://www.corbisimages.com/Enlargement/RE001012.html>.

[3] Craig Wright, The Maze and the Warrior (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2001) 59.

[4] Wright, 60; Hermann Kern, Through the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings over 5,000 Years (New York, Prestel, 2000) 253; see also Jean Macrez, Le Labyrinthe de la cathédrale d’Amiens (Amiens, 1990).

[5] Wright, 59.

[6] Kern, 149; Wright, 60; the original French document is kept in Amiens, Archives départementales de la Somme, MS 2975, fol. 247; Stephen Murray, Notre-Dame Cathedral of Amiens: The Power of Change in Gothic (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1996) 129.

[7] Source: "Amiens Cathedral Labyrinth." Paxworks Labyrinths, Canvas Labyrinths Spiritual Prayer Gifts Gospel Peace. Web. 05 Mar. 2010. <http://www.paxworks.com/photos/Amiens.html>.