Loyola University Chicago

Medieval Studies

Labyrinth from the Cathedral of San Maritino in Lucca, Italy

Type: Chartres
Status: Exists

                              Lucca [1]

                                  Lucca [2]

Following a Chartres-type design, the labyrinth found in the Cathedral of San Maritino in Lucca, Italy was cut into a single stone and acts as bas-relief. Located within the porch at the western end of the cathedral, the labyrinth has been placed vertically into one of the pillars.[3] Similar to other Italian labyrinths, the one from Lucca draws parallels between the pagan Theseus and Christ:

Here is the Cretan labyrinth that Daedalus built. From it no one who entered could escape except Theseus, who succeeded through the grace of Ariadne’s thread.[4]

This would seem to suggest that one would be trying to escape the labyrinth and not reach its center, but as the hexameter points out, one cannot succeed without Ariadne’s thread. Therefore, the faithful must rely on God to lead them out.[5] According to the observations of Julien Durand, this labyrinth once contained the images of Theseus and the Minotaur, but over hundreds of years, the fingers of thousands have gradually rubbed these characters out, so that today no trace of them remains.


[1] Source: "San Martino Labyrinth, Lucca Photo | TrekEarth." Learning about the World through Photography | TrekEarth. Web. 11 Apr. 2010. .

[2] Source: "StockphotoPro: Images for Lucca Lucca Duomo Cathedral San Martino St Martin Porch Pier with Maze." Web. 11 Apr. 2010. .

[3] Craig Wright, The Maze and the Warrior (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2001) 35.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Hermann Kern, Through the Labyrinth: Designs and Meanings over 5,000 Years (Art & Design), (New York, Prestel, 2000) 156.