Terracotta Angel, c.1896
Watts Chapel, England

 Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos

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Labyrinths have been a potent symbol in many cultures, for thousands of years. When Theseus killed the Minotaur he defeated the beast at the heart of darkness - and created a myth that is still vibrant and evolving today. Roman mosaics often depicted labyrinths as fortified cities, while in medieval Europe they symbolised the one true path to Christian salvation. They have been used as ceremonial pathways, protective sigils, traps for unwelcome spirits and for games and dancing. Found at different points in time, in places as diverse as Brazil, Arizona, Iceland, across Europe, in Africa, India and Sumatra, this symbol and its family of derivatives have been traced back 4000 years or more; but its origins remain mysterious.

Mazes, synonymous with confusion, are of more recent origin, evolving from the earlier labyrinths around five hundred years ago - they have been exercising our feet and minds ever since. Modern puzzle mazes, however complex their form, are but the latest episode in this labyrinthine story.

An Introduction to Labyrinths & Mazes

Pavement labyrinth,
Köln Cathedral, Germany

 Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos

This section of the Labyrinthos website contains a number of articles that will provide an introduction to the twists and turns of the tale. These links, however, are winding and circuitous, like the path that leads towards the centre of the labyrinth, or the routes within a maze - enter and be amazed…

The Story of the Labyrinth
a brief introduction to the labyrinth, by Jeff Saward

The First Labyrinths
the earliest known labyrinths, from prehistoric rock carvings to the time of the Romans, by Jeff Saward

The Centre of the Labyrinth
an illustrated introduction to the history and symbolism of the labyrinth, by Jeff Saward

The Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth - FAQ’s
probably the best-known labyrinth in the world, but what do we really know about it?, by Jeff Saward

Laying out a Labyrinth
a guide to laying out and constructing your own full-sized classical labyrinth

Typology of Labyrinths & Mazes
a study of the different types of labyrinths and mazes, adapted from Jeff Saward's "Labyrinths & Mazes"

Labyrinths in India, Pakistan, Nepal & Sri Lanka
the little-known historic labyrinths to be found in the Indian subcontinent, by Jeff Saward

Labyrinths in Ireland
the curious historic labyrinths to be found in the enchanted isle of Ireland, by Jeff Saward

Historic Church & Cathedral Labyrinths in England
a brief introduction to labyrinths in English churches, chapels and cathedrals, with a map and visiting details

Historic Turf Labyrinths in England
a brief introduction to turf labyrinths, with a map & details of the eight historic examples surviving in England

The Chaldon Labyrinths
an illustrated study of labyrinths chalked in an underground stone quarry in Southern England, by Jeff Saward

More coming soon...


And now you may care to take a look at number of further articles, reprinted from Caerdroia - the Journal of Mazes & Labyrinths and covering many different topics, that are available here.

The story of mazes and labyrinths is as long
and tortuous as their plans might suggest...

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