Labyrinth was created in Greek mythology and appeared in Gothic cathedrals.
Excerpts from Wikipedia with Japanese translation.





In Greek mythology, the Labyrinth (Greek λαβύρινθος labyrinthos, possibly the building complex at Knossos) was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. Its function was to hold the Minotaur, a mythical creature that was half man and half bull and was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus. Daedalus had so cunningly made the Labyrinth that he could barely escape it after he built it. Theseus was aided by Ariadne, who provided him with a skein of thread, literally the “clew”, or “clue”, so he could find his way out again.

Image: Wikipedia
Roman mosaic picturing Theseus and the Minotaur. Rhaetia, Switzerland.

ギリシャ神話によると、Labyrinth (ギリシャ語λαβύρινθος labyrinthos、恐らくクノッソス[クレタ島にある青銅時代最大の遺跡]の建築物群)は、伝説的な技術者ダイダロスがクノッソスのクレタ王ミノスのために設計、建築した精巧な構造物で、ミノタウロスを捕まえるためのものだった。ミノタウロスとは、ギリシャ神話に登場する半牛半人の怪物で、アテナイの英雄テセウスに殺された。実は、ダイダロスがあまりにも巧妙に迷宮を設計したので、テセウスは建築が完了してやっとの思いで脱出することができるほどだった。テセウスが外に出ることができたのは、アリアドネが手を差しのべたからだった。アリアドネが一かせの糸、文字通り「clew [糸玉=道しるべの糸]」または、「clue [糸口]」を差し出したおかげで、テセウスは再び外に出る道を見つけることができた。

In colloquial English, labyrinth is generally synonymous with maze, but many contemporary scholars observe a distinction between the two: maze refers to a complex branching (multicursal) puzzle with choices of path and direction; while a single-path (unicursal) labyrinth has only a single, non-branching path, which leads to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate.

日常の英語では、labyrinth [ラビリンス]は概ねmaze [メイズ]と同義語だが、現代の研究者の多くはこの2語を区別している。すなわち、mazeは道や方向の選択肢がある複雑に分岐する(multicursal)難問で、一方、一本道(unicursal)のlabyrinthは、中央に導く一本の枝分かれしない道だというものだ。この説では、ラビリンスは中心までの明白な道のりで、先を進んで行くのに難しい設計ではない。

Although early Cretan coins occasionally exhibit multicursal patterns, the unicursal seven-course “Classical” design became associated with the Labyrinth on coins as early as 430 BC, and became widely used to represent the Labyrinth – even though both logic and literary descriptions make it clear that the Minotaur was trapped in a complex branching maze. Even as the designs became more elaborate, visual depictions of the Labyrinth from Roman times until the Renaissance are almost invariably unicursal. Branching mazes were reintroduced only when garden mazes became popular during the Renaissance.


Labyrinths appeared as designs on pottery or basketry, as body art, and in etchings on walls of caves or churches. The Romans created many primarily decorative labyrinth designs on walls and floors in tile or mosaic. Many labyrinths set in floors or on the ground are large enough that the path can be walked. They have been used historically both in group ritual and for private meditation.



Medieval labyrinths and turf mazes


The full flowering of the medieval labyrinth came about from the twelfth through fourteenth centuries with the grand pavement labyrinths of the gothic cathedrals, notably Chartres, Reims and Amiens in northern France. These labyrinths may have originated as symbolic allusion to the Holy City; and some modern thinkers have theorized that prayers and devotions may have accompanied the perambulation of their intricate paths. Although some books (in particular guidebooks) suggest that the mazes on cathedral floors served as substitutes for pilgrimage paths, the earliest attested use of the phrase “chemin de Jerusalem” (path to Jerusalem) dates to the late 18th century when it was used to describe mazes at Reims and Saint-Omer.

Image: Wikipedia
Cathedral of Amiens, France

中世のラビリンスは、12世紀から14世紀にゴシック大聖堂の敷石という形で盛期を迎え、シャルトル大聖堂、ランス大聖堂、アミアン大聖堂など北フランスで盛んに制作された。このようなラビリンスは、聖地エルサレムの象徴として暗示されていたと考えられている。最近、一部研究者の間では、複雑な道を歩き回ることにより祈りを捧げ信仰心を高めたという説が唱えられている。ランス大聖堂やサン・オメール大聖堂のメイズに関してガイドブックなどでは、大聖堂床のラビリンスは、巡礼の旅の代わりを勤めていた記載されているが、「chemin de Jerusalem」(エルサレムへの道)とう言葉が登場する最も早い時期は18世紀である。

The accompanying ritual, supposedly involving pilgrims following the maze on their knees while praying, may have been practiced at Chartres during the 17th century. However, no contemporary evidence supports the idea that labyrinths had such a purpose for early Christians. The cathedral labyrinths are thought to be the inspiration for the many turf mazes in the UK, such as survive at Wing, Hilton, Alkborough, and Saffron Walden.

Image: Wikipedia
Chartres Cathedral, about 1750, Jean Baptiste Rigaud