Head into the famous nave of the Chartres Cathedral, France, and you’ll discover one of the most famous spiritual paths in the world. The Labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral. The Cathedral itself is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture, which was built over 26 years, beginning in 1145.
Spiritual paths such as the one at Chartres began to emerge throughout Europe in the 12th century, but the one at Chartres became one of the most famous, and was an important stop-off for Christians to walk through as part of their pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
The Cathedral already held a great significance to Christians, as it houses the Sancta Camisa, the tunic supposedly worn by the Virgin Mary during the birth of Christ.
What Does Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral Represent?
The labyrinth is shrouded in myth and mystery, though is more commonly known to be a representation of the spiritual journey of the Christian pilgrim on route to Jerusalem.
Although it’s associated with Christianity, the labyrinth at over 42 feet in diameter, was once thought to contain a depiction of a Minotaur in the center. It’s thought the image of the Minotaur was engraved into a bronze disc, which was taken and melted down to build canons, but this is not known for sure.
The labyrinth is thought to represent the world we live in, broad at the entrance, narrow at the exit. The center of this beautiful labyrinth is a six lobed rosette, representing the nature of God.
The labyrinth is an ideogram of the path man must travel in himself to be worthy of what the cathedral itself stands for.
The center is spiritual, defined as the resting place, and as you arrive at the center you are met by a Rosette pattern of 6 petals, similar to the sacred lotus, which is commonly used as a symbol of Enlightenment.
The Walk Through
There is only one way in. After entering, the route takes you through the 4 quadrants of the circle until you reach the center.
The Labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral has eleven tracks to follow. When you begin to follow the path round, you use the left inner rings first, then the center rings, and finally those on the right. After this you do the left outside rings, and then the right. It’s quite surprising how long it takes you to get through.
Pilgrims often express the feeling of calmness they get as they walk through, and the energy they experience which is said to be channeling through the route from past pilgrims.
Some pilgrims throughout it’s history used the Labyrinth of Chartres as a form of penance, in which they would take the route on their knees.
Although the labyrinth is usually covered by seating for the faithful, it is uncovered every Friday from 10 am to 5 pm from Lenten season, to the “day of the saints,” the 1st of November.
The Cathedral is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is well worth a visit if you ever get the chance. It is still visited by thousands of pilgrims who flock there each year.