Architecture students chalk up labyrinths

Labyrinths have been in the news at Lincoln recently. Students from the University of Lincoln’s School of Architecture drew a chalk labyrinth in front of the Main Academic Building – photographs can be seen on the Lincoln School of Architecture blog here 

University of Lincoln School of Architecture students drawing a chalk labyrinth

Architecture students went on to draw a replica of the Chartres Labyrinth under the central tower of Lincoln Cathedral as can be seen here

Labyrinth at Melton Mowbray as part of ‘Approaches to Prayer’ Lent course by Les Acklam

Some 40 or so members of local Melton Mowbray churches attended the third session of a Lent course which was exploring different approaches to prayer. In one sense these were ‘new’ ways, but really they were all revivals of age-old traditions, largely overlooked and unused since the Age of Rationalism cast doubt on anything that wasn’t cerebral.

This 3rd session re-introduced the labyrinth, a feature of many medieval churches, particularly the cathedrals of France and northern Italy, but which fell out of use, and was only recently re-discovered in the 1990’s.  By walking a labyrinth we are re-discovering a long-forgotten mystical tradition that many find surprisingly potent.

St Mary’s Church, Melton Mowbray had 20 x 20 foot space in a chapel on the south side which allowed for a 7-circuit Petit Chartres labyrinth. Using a labyrinthograph (!), the 7 circles on which this particular design is based, were traced on to the flag-stones in carpenter’s pencil which then enabled the final outline to be marked out with masking tape.

After a brief introduction, the ‘pilgrims’ were invited to walk. There was an enthusiastic but attentive response. Equally important is the reflection afterwards, in this case, shared reflection which deepened the experience and provided  food for on-going meditation in the days ahead.

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Although the outline on the floor had always intended to be short-lived –‘ for one night only’ , such was the collective experience that a decision was made to leave it in place for several more days to allow for, second walks, perhaps when fewer people were present, and for  others who had not participated in the evening to have an opportunity to share in the experience.

Health Campus Week and Walking the Labyrinth at Lincoln

poster for healthy campus week

Healthy Campus Week gave students and staff at Riseholme and Brayford the experience of walking the labyrinth. 

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This opportunity to take time out is welcome. University chaplain Les Acklam offered a chunk of quiet relaxing time to focus on the path beneath your feet as it meanders into the centre of the Ermine Labyrinth and back out again. Unlike a maze, you can’t get lost in a labyrinth, you can only reach the centre and then work your way back to the beginning. Many people say this is a metaphor for life – but the true value of walking the labyrinth is it can represent whatever you want it too.

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Evaluation samples

“Actually more effective than I thought it would be, I felt confused when finding myself drifting away from the centre, but accomplished when I got there.”

“Gets annoying that you feel like you don’t get anywhere. But it’s something different to try.”

“I enjoyed the experience very much the music did help my mind felt empty and it enabled me to release a lot of negative energy. The reach to the middle simbolized achieving my goal.”

“Dizzy but more concentrated.”

“I liked the music and the green lights and also the way it was all curved lines and no straight ones made it easier to walk through it.”

“Not at all what I expected, finally a chance for some peace amongst this busy life. It gave me chance to think about plans and problems. Give it a chance and you’ll get out of it what you put in.”

Labyrinth Workshop & Facilitator Training with Veriditas Master Teacher Di Williams

Click onto the link  for details of a labyrinth workshop to be run by Di Williams next year. Flyer for Di Williams

You might be interested to hear Di Williams, the UK’s first Veriditas Master Teacher and trainer for these events, being interviewed about labyrinths for BBC’s Women’s Hour, sometime between 10-11am on Friday 31st December.

A student walk

As well the recent Walk to Remember  at St Mary’s Church in Alsager, Cheshire, Bernard Moss has sent the information below about the labyrinth at Staffordshire University.

Bernard has led several labyrinth walk events at Staffordshire University, including on for a cohort of part time social work  students  whom he happened to be teaching on his last official day of teaching before retirement. It had a theme of thankfulness for the journey so far, and of stepping out into an unknown future.

As each student reached the centre, carrying their small glass pebble to represent whatever they took with them on their walk, they found a card addressed to them personally in which Bernard had written an appreciation for their contribution to the course and their many gifts, strengths and attributes. On their return they all wrote lengthy contributions in the labyrinth diary which helped everyone to mark the specialness of the occasion.

Labyrinth at Staffordshire University

Additional walks have taken place to mark Mental Health and Well-being week at the university, with future events planned for reflective practice workshops for staff. There are strong hopes that Staffordshire University might soon have its own permanent labyrinth.

A walk to remember

Bernard Moss led a labyrinth walk in his home town of Alsager, Cheshire, around the theme of Remembrance in November. This focussed not only on helping people remember those who have died in military conflict but also anyone experiencing the painful loss of bereavement, which focuses around the Christian festivals of All Souls and All Saints.  Red rose petals were scattered along the labyrinth walk as memory moments for the walkers, together with an opportunity to take a small coloured glass pebble with them to focus their thoughts. Click here to download the handout prepared for participants (Word document)

St Mary's Church, Alsager, Cheshire

Walking the Labyrinth in Lincoln Cathedral

The Lincoln ‘Ermine Street’ Labyrinth was set out in the dramatic setting of Lincoln Cathedral on 29th September by Lincoln University Chaplain Les Acklam. This was part of an activity day for pupils from special needs schools from across the county.  Two workshops were held for two groups of a dozen pupils who enjoyed the experience of walking the labyrinth and were intrigued by its design and history.

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Di Williams

Di Williams in front of the Edinburgh Labyrinth
Di Williams in front of the Edinburgh Labyrinth

“It was a delight to be launched as the first Veriditas Master Teacher for the UK at the first ever Veriditas Facilitator Training event held in this country.  It was a personal privilege to teach a wonderfully experienced and skilled group.  Together, we have taken a step along the path of deepening the labyrinth work already happening in the UK.  I am excited at all that is to come”.

‘UK Veriditas Master Teacher and Labyrinth Consultant, Rev Di Williams.

Journeys Through the Labyrinth Workshop; September 2010

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‘Journeys through the Labyrinth’ workshop, under the University of Kent’s Creative Campus initiative, was an opportunity to learn more about the labyrinth and its use as a blueprint for a journey – whether through work, study, or major life decisions and transitions. The day included exploration of the history, meaning and impact of labyrinths in the world today, with a focus on reflection, creativity and spiritual development. As well as background information, and small and large group discussions, there were opportunities to walk both indoor and outdoor labyrinths in a day of personal journaling and reflection. The workshop was led by Lauren Artress, an Episcopal priest in the State of California and Founder and Creative Director of VeriditasJan Sellers, whose National Teacher Fellow project supported the creation of the beautiful Canterbury Labyrinth in the grounds of the University of Kent (see the picture gallery above) managed the event which doubled up as a pre-qualifying workshop for the labyrinth facilitator training weekend that followed. This training was led by Di Williams, Anglican minister and currently Chaplain at the University of Edinburgh. In 2008 Di was awarded an MBE for services to higher education including her interfaith and labyrinth work in Chaplaincy. Di is also a Veriditas Master Teacher and author of the book ‘Labyrinth – landscape of the Soul’ available at 0r Futher information about the University of Edinbugh Labyrinth can be found here on the Labyrinth Projects page.

The Canterbury Labyrinth is beautifully situated on the side of a wooded hill that looks down towards Canterbury Cathedral. The parallels with historical accounts of pilgrimage, in particular Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, makes the concept of taking time out for journeying and personal reflection even more appropriate.

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