• Tessa MorrisonEmail author
Living reference work entry


The labyrinth is a fusion of architecture and symbol, and it has permeated culture since ancient times. It is also a synthesis of reality, religion, and myth that has merged through the ages. It has been a prison for the Minotaur in ancient Crete and an ancient Egyptian palace as described by Herodotus and Pliny. In ancient Rome, it appears as graffiti in Pompeii. For pseudo-Dionysius (late fifth century to early sixth century), it was the dance of the angels which has formed the basis for Christian processions and rituals and for shaping the architectural boundaries of early churches. In mediaeval times, it was the pathway to Jerusalem that decorated the floors of cathedrals, particularly in France. Although labyrinths come in various forms, a very precise structure of the symbol of the labyrinth emerges in ancient times that is repeated in various cultures, sometimes round and sometimes square but exactly the same structure. The word “labyrinth” seems to have so many meanings, yet many of these ancient labyrinths have one precise geometrical structure that has been retained for millennia and is commonly called the Cretan labyrinth. The labyrinth, architecture, and geometry have been entwined through time. This chapter considers this relationship by examining a paradigm that makes it possible to assess these simple structures and how they have changed in appearance, while the geometrical structure has stayed the same.


Cretan labyrinths Roman labyrinths Church labyrinths 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The School of Architecture and Built EnvironmentThe University of NewcastleNewcastleAustralia

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