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The Famous Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

Updated on May 25, 2014

Labyrinth: Cathedral Notre-Dame in Chartres

People have been journeying to the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth for almost a thousand years.

Historically the Chartres labyrinth was walked as part of a spiritual journey, as a tool for becoming closer to God, or for atonement with the seeker walking on their knees.

The Chartres Cathedral labyrinth also grew to be a substitution for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem earning it the name 'Chemin de Jerusalem' or 'road of Jerusalem'.

The Chartres Cathedral labyrinth sparked the modern labyrinth movement and its design is the basis for many modern labyrinths.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Dupuis pierre

Labyrinth, Cathedral Chartres
Labyrinth, Cathedral Chartres

The Chartres Cathedral

Located in Chartres, France

The Chartres Cathedral is rich with history and surrounded by myth, legend and lore.

The location was famous prior to the building of the cathedral as it was believed to be the burial site of several famous Saints: Piat, Cheron, Modesta and Potentianus.

A famous myth, which has now been disproved, is that ancient Druids used to worship the prophesied "Virgin Mother".

The Chartres Cathedral was built in the French High Gothic style between 1193 and 1250. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Most of the original architecture is intact including the stained glass windows. These famous windows depict biblical stories so that the priests could easily educate the public in an era when literacy was not commonplace. In addition to the bible stories you can also see images of the zodiac.

Another reason the Chartres Cathedral is an international destination is the Sancta Camisia. A sacred relic, the Sancta Camisia was the tunic worn by the Virgin Mary while in labour. The Sancta Camisia was gifted to the church in 876 AD by Charles the Bald, the grandson of Charlemagne, and is on display to the public.

Photo used under Creative Commons by david__jones


Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth
Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

The Labyrinth at Chartres

People have made pilgrimages to the Chartres Labyrinth for almost a thousand years.

The famous Chartres Cathedral labyrinth is one of the few remaining medieval labyrinths of its time. Many newer labyrinths have been designed based on the Chartres labyrinth, the most famous example being the labyrinth in Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

The Chartres Labyrinth is nearly 13 meters in diameter and is constructed of paving stones. While the exact number of paving stones is unknown, it is somewhere around 270. Some schools of thought suggest this symbolizes the number of days of human gestation.

The labyrinth is divided into four quadrants and the divisions form a cross when viewed from above. The center is decorated with six petals representing the rose, a symbol of purity and spiritual enlightenment.

The exterior is decorated by lunations featuring 112 cusps. If you divide the number of cusps by the number of quadrants you get 28. This fact has created speculation that the labyrinth was once used as a sort of lunar calendar.

In a study conducted by John James, an Australian architect, the path of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth is 365 1/4 feet based on the foot measurement of the mason who constructed the labyrinth, the exact number of days in a calendar year.

The center of the labyrinth once hosted a brass plaque depicting Theseus and the Minotaur. But, during the French Revolution the army needed metal so the plaque was removed and melted down.

Photo used under Creative Commons by ~Ealasaid~


My Google Maps

The Chartres Cathedral is located 80 km (50 miles) Southwest of Paris at 92 Rue du Grand Faubourg, 28000 Chartres, France

A marker -
92 Rue du Grand Faubourg, 28000 Chartres, France
get directions

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth with chairs
Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth with chairs

When Can I Walk the Labyrinth at Chartres?

The Chartres labyrinth isn't always available for walking

If you would like to walk the labyrinth at Chartres planning ahead is essential. The primary role of the Notre Dame Cathedral at Chartres is a functioning place of worship and accordingly the labyrinth is covered in chairs for mass throughout most of the year.

To avoid disappointment you will need to plan your trip to Chartres for when the labyrinth will be uncovered.

Throughout the summer months the labyrinth is uncovered on Fridays for those wishing to walk the labyrinth. However, this isn't all inclusive. If there is a funeral taking place on a Friday then the labyrinth will be covered.

For 2014 the labyrinth will be open Fridays from March 7th - October 31st. The labyrinth will be closed one Friday in September (date to be determined at a later time).

Chartres Labyrinth Tours

This is a site dedicated to Chartres Labyrinth Tours leaving from Paris.

Photo used under Creative Commons by ~Ealasaid~

Video: Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth - A Spiritual Pilgrimage

A series of still shots set to music. The first half of this video shows the labyrinth in its usual state - covered by chairs. The second half shows the uncovered labyrinth being walked.


What to do if the Chartres Labyrinth is closed when you arrive

An alternative labyrinth walk

If you find the Chartres Labyrinth closed when you arrive then no doubt you will be disappointed. Even if you've planned your visit for a day when the labyrinth was supposed to be uncovered there is no guarantee you will be able to walk.

So, what should you do?

First, take in the beauty of the cathedral. Such well preserved original architecture deserves to be admired. Once you have done this, head outside to the outdoor labyrinth. There is a grass labyrinth located outside the cathedral. It won't be the same experience as walking the labyrinth within Chartres Cathedral, but at least you will get to experience walking a labyrinth at Chartres.

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Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth Guestbook - Have you walked the Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth?

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    • WriterJanis2 profile image

      WriterJanis2 4 years ago

      Labyrinths are so cool.

    • awakeningwellness profile image

      awakeningwellness 5 years ago

      I frequently walk the labyrinth at Unity Village and would love to walk this one sometime!

    • TaraWojt profile image
      Author

      Tara Wojtaszek 5 years ago

      @TransplantedSoul: That's fantastic! I'm glad you enjoyed Chartres.

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 5 years ago

      YES! This is such a great place to visit. I lived in Paris for a few years and had the chance to visit a few times.

    • TaraWojt profile image
      Author

      Tara Wojtaszek 5 years ago

      @Tonto Murray: Thanks : )

    • Tonto Murray profile image

      Tonto Murray 5 years ago

      Really interesting lens about a beautiful Cathedral. Blessed.

    • Camden1 profile image

      Camden1 5 years ago

      I have not, but I would love to see the Chartres Cathedral.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 5 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      labyrinth, i love this complicated arrangements. it is difficult to find one's way to reach the exit. first time heard about this cathedral labyrinth. thanks for the interesting information

    • TaraWojt profile image
      Author

      Tara Wojtaszek 5 years ago

      @heartbridgegall: Thank you! Your designs at CafePress and Zazzle are beautiful!

    • heartbridgegall profile image

      heartbridgegall 5 years ago

      I think your lenses are fantastic! I'm an artist on Cafe Press and not long ago, I did a design based on the labryinth pattern at Chartres (which I didn't know.) Thank you! This lens is so interesting as all your lenses are!

    • jayceehaynes profile image

      jayceehaynes 5 years ago

      great lens :)