THE CATHEDRAL LABYRINTH
New Harmony, Indiana, is a fascinating place. It was founded in 1814 by a group of German immigrants who built a thriving village. Then they sold the whole place to Robert Owen in 1825 and moved back to Pennsylvania, where they built another village. In all, they built three towns, and each of them had a hedge labyrinth. (There is a reproduction in a nearby state park.)
New Harmony also has a Chartres labyrinth. Thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Jane Blaffer Owen (married to Kenneth Owen, descendant of Robert Owen), the town has been under restoration and improvement for the past 50 years. When it came time to make an exact copy of the Chartres labyrinth, in polished granite, I escorted the architects to Chartres, France, to see and measure the real thing. That's me on the left (top photo) and architect Rob Sovinski on the right. Head architect was Kent Schuette.
Not only is the New Harmony labyrinth magnificent, but the park in which it is located was made specifically for the labyrinth, imitating the dimensions of the nave of Chartres Cathedral. A fountain was added so that people could wash their feet before or after walking the labyrinth. The labyrinth was dedicated in October, 1998, by the Rector of Chartres Cathedral, Chanoine Francois Legaux (since retired).
In 2008, Historic New Harmony decided to restore the hedge maze back to the original hedge labyrinth pattern, which is available from the archives. The reproduction that was constructed in the 1930's was deliberately changed by the architect from a labyrinth to a maze. Presumably he thought it was more interesting. The transformation was not terribly difficult, removing some hedges and planting others. Where the hedges are thin and growing out, panels have been erected to maintain the wall.
Visitors impatient to just see the center building break through the hedges, destroying them and making big gaps. Since I did the drawing for the restoration, I added three gates which line up as if part of the hedge walls. Going throught the gates allow one to go directly to the center and out again. Designed by a local craftsman, the gates themselves are quite clever and beautiful. Now, rather than being an ordinary maze, it is a very unique hedge labyrinth, with a pettern unlike any other.
Measuring the labyrinth.
Dedication service in fall, 1998.
The labyrinth in early spring, 1999, as the plantings are just starting to come up.
The matt and polished surface of the granite distinguishes the path and line.