Labyrinths have been a potent symbol throughout human history, serving as allegories that consciously or subconsciously symbolize the twisting and meandering paths that comprise the journey of life.
Labyrinths in early Christianity held a variety of meanings, but perhaps the most important use of this symbol was as a means by which the faithful could perform an allegorical penance for their sins. In place of embarking on the long and dangerous pilgrimage to the actual city of Jerusalem, the penitent would simply walk the labyrinth of a cathedral and seek a symbolic Holy Land and atonement at its center.
The labyrinth of Amiens Cathedral (La cathédrale d’Amiens) is linked to the more famous labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral and has the same path arrangement and widths, but differs from its round counterpart in its octagonal shape. It was originally created in the late Middle Ages in the year 1288, roughly a decade after the cathedral itself was built. A medallion in the center of the maze commemorates the construction of the medieval cathedral.
For 500 years, the labyrinth was a key feature of the Amiens Cathedral until its destruction through an act of vandalism in 1825 during the post-revolutionary period in France. Fortunately, the beautiful maze was later restored in accordance with the original design and color scheme by expert masons. In a further stroke of luck, the labyrinth managed to survive two German bombardments and occupations of the city of Amiens during the 20th century.
Know Before You Go
The cathedral is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. from Monday to Friday. Visitors to the cathedral sometimes miss the labyrinth due to being captivated by the other beautiful sights in the building. In order to see it, walk to the nave (center) of the cathedral paying attention to the floor, and there you will notice the characteristic spiral of the maze.