Make Sure Your Labyrinth Is Facing The Right Direction

Which direction should a labyrinth face? Generally it should be oriented so that the entrance is facing a calming vista or land feature. The photo example below, our Vision Quest a la Chartres paver installation at Advent Lutheran Church near the Pentagon in Arlington VA, faces away from a busy intersection and towards a grove of trees accentuated with newer foreground plantings.

ArlingtonVA-AdventLutheranChurch-VisionQuest-a-la-Chartres-BuffFieldCharcoalLine

Recently I was working with a landscape architect on a labyrinth project for a memorial garden at a church and there was a question of which direction the labyrinth should face. So let me share what I've learned while building and consulting on thousands of projects.

There are many schools of thought regarding the orientation of a labyrinth. Many Christians say a labyrinth should face East, based on the idea that churches were built with their altars in the East. The prime example that's usually given is the famous labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral outside Paris. Interestingly, the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth does not face the East. It is actually oriented 42 degrees off the East-West axis, just as the cathedral housing it is off-line. The cathedral is only the latest building on an ancient site, and re-orienting it would have been impractical.

Organized Christian denominations use a philosophical solution to this practical problem: wherever the altar needs to be oriented is thought of as "liturgical East". Worshipers face East, actually or philosophically, to honor Jesus Christ, symbolized in the rising sun (Son). Christian sensitivity to light in general is very deep-seated, and possibly the chief motivation behind the development of light-filled Gothic architecture.

Generally when we're deciding how to orient a labyrinth, we believe it should be designed so that you are facing the vista or land feature you find most calming while standing at the entrance to begin your walk. Personally, I think this is comforting and enhances the walker's experience because the only decision you have to make as you prepare to enter the labyrinth is whether to walk or not.


David Tolzmann
David Tolzmann

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1 Response

bernard shuck
bernard shuck

June 01, 2015

Thanks for your view-pt .Have read Artress/ several others. Been to all the ones practicable. Esp. liked Danville, Ky. One here in Knox., Tn. is on “banker’s hours” or locked up .Found the small pewter/ stylus type, prior to which I had made my own on plywood—840 holes and about 3 mos of maddening work ( a blind person could follow mine). I don’t like the C.N.C. grooved ones. I have 44 ft. clear in front yard, and will start soon to build, w/ lariope ( vaguely called " monkey- grass") separations.* F.Y.I.: 67 ; B.A. art hist. ; but welded pipe all my life. Cherish Buddhism as a philos., but have returned to Anglican after miracle of meeting a woman- it was no accident. I had to reappraise" who’s driving up’ar".Resp. Bernard

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