Labyrinths in Cathedrals

Figure on page 67 from The Book of Fun, Mirth and Mystery (1924)

Figure on page 67 from The Book of Fun, Mirth and Mystery (1924)

I am so lucky because I’ve been able to buy R. A. Hummerston’s The Book of Fun, Mirth & Mystery (1924). I was writing an article for a Catalan magazine about Mathematics and I needed to read some paragraphs of this interesting book so I decided to buy it in a special book shop from London. Yesterday, I was reading quietly some of the very funny articles of the book and… I discovered page 67 entitled “Labyrinths in Cathedrals”:

It was customary during the Middle Ages to insert in the floor of the nave of certain Cathedrals a maze or labyrinth of black and white stones or coloured tiles. These labyrinths were also known as “Roads of Jerusalem”, owing, it is supposed, to the fact that workshippers were accustomed to traverse the sharp stones of the maze upon their knees.

Fig. 1, in the Cathedral of Sens, is on circular form, and was encrusted with lead. It measured 66 feet across, and the length of the circuit, with took an hour to traverse, was over a mile and a quarter. The maze at Saint Owen (fig. 2) was formed of blue and yellow tiles, and measured about three-quarters of a mile. The labyrinth of Saint Quentin (fig. 3) was taken away in 1792, because of children playing the game of, “Who can get into it quickest?” disturbed the workshippers.

The maze of Bayeux (fig. 4) is formed of black squares, bearing yellow riffings, roses, and armorial bearings.

I’ve looked for real images of these mazes and I’ve found some of them in the net as the next one:

Source: Not all those who wander are lost (blog)

And this picture from the Cathedral of Bayeux:

Source: Not all those who wander are lost (blog)

I think that this is a very interesting subject which must be studied better. I’m going to spent some time looking for information about some mazes inside European Medieval Cathedrals. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have some interesting information!


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