Considering myself a labyrinth aficionado – a longtime user of the one in Vancouver, where we were married just after Christmas; and having walked the one at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and Chartres in Paris (the original!); and so pleased to have one now in my home city of Sydney – I was surprised to visit the Amiens Cathedral and find a major labyrinth in the middle of it.
There is a small plaque on the wall explaining its history, but other than that, no special promotion or instructions, and in fact, although S. figured it out right away, where to start, and that you followed the darker path rather than the lighter one, it’s not evident right away.
A shame as I think with some encouragement and explanation, the many tourists to the cathedral could have a nice introduction to labyrinths, a beautiful ancient tool for contemplation and meditation, and a fun thing to do for kids too!
It’s also cool that it’s open, not covered with chairs, and I would assume available for anyone who wanted to walk it at any time. It’s a shame that the one at Chartres is only available to walk once a week on Fridays (though I currently see that the labyrinth is closed completely and won’t be opening again until July 2016)
In the morning, on our first visit to the church, we walked into the labyrinth, and some curious onlookers did stop and notice that there was something notable, and later that afternoon when we returned, I decided to start in the middle, marked with a lovely ornate stone (we saw the original cast in the local museum), and move outwards.
I do think it’s a special and beautiful thing; this labyrinth compared to the Chartres design feels about a similar number of turns, but is different, and with the square, straight edges feels different than the round paths of the Chartres labyrinth that I’m used to.
In general, the Amiens cathedral feels a bit dead in terms of energy, such a big imposing space, and it feels more for tourists to visit than for regular use (unlike, say the bustling Sacre Coeur where even with so many visitors, it keeps its sense of being regularly used). But standing in the centre of the labyrinth, which is at the centre of the church, where the central stone was laid in 1288, was a good feeling.
Amiens is just a short trip away from Paris, and makes a nice daytrip. I recommend it, especially if you wanted to do the labyrinth at Chartres and can’t get there on the right day, or during a month or season it’s open.