What is a Labyrinth?

The Labyrinth is an archetypal, mandala-like symbol that appears in a variety of cultures, dating as far back as 2,500 B.C. The Hopi Medicine Wheel, Man in the Maze pattern, and the Kabbala’s Tree of Life are all examples of labyrinths. The labyrinth looks like a maze, but only has one path that leads to the center, instead of the dead ends found in a maze. In his book, Mandala Symbolism, Carl G. Jung observed that mandala-like symbols can be used by the psyche to bring wholeness and order during chaos states.

The eleven-circuit labyrinth has its roots in the Christian tradition, dating back as early as 860 – 862 A.D. It developed as a method of pilgrimage during the early thirteenth century. The Roman Church appointed seven European cathedrals as pilgrimage sites. The walk into the labyrinth at the end of the pilgrimage was a ritual ending of the journey, and entry into a symbolic Jerusalem.

Current interest in the labyrinth was ignited through Dr. Lauren Artress, at the Canon of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. She traveled to Chartres, France, to walk the labyrinth there which had been installed on the floor of the cathedral in the early thirteenth century. Dr. Artress considers the labyrinth a tool that encourages internal and relational harmony and helps satisfy the “spiritual hunger” present in our world.

The outdoor Labyrinth at New Life Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque is an example of the eleven-circuit labyrinths.

The outdoor labyrinth measures approximately sixty feet in diameter and is made from almost 60 tons of material. The base is grey crusher fines with the lines being marked using rose-colored stone. The two paths leading to the labyrinth use the same base material and are lined with eight-inch cobblestone rocks. Students and parents from Covenant Presbyterian Church in College Station, Texas came to help us build this labyrinth in the summer of 2003.