Building a Chartres-style Labyrinth with Masking Tape in Chartres

Liturgy of The Light,  Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

Liturgy of The Light, Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

For the third year in a row the Chartres Cathedral asked the Community of Chemin Neuf to animate an Easter-eve liturgy, “The Office of The Light.” Bishop Michel Pansard presides at the celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Essential elements include the Paschal candle (representing the Risen Christ, Light of the World), the labyrinth with its pathway, and the sharing of the light (via candles). This year the planners thought it wise to practice the liturgy on a replica of a Chartres-style labyrinth, so we built a temporary one at The Visitation Center, a hub for activities and administration of the Diocese.

Getting Started:

The first challenge was space. The room was long enough to hold a thirty-six foot labyrinth, the size of the diameter in the cathedral. However, the room was not wide enough. The entrance paths, center, and turns were the most important elements for the dancers to have available as they rehearsed, so we used the space in such a way that they could be prioritized. We oriented the labyrinth so that its entrance could be accessed easily–it opened to the chapel that ran perpendicular to the room with the labyrinth. After clearing the space, we took a moment to pray, asking God to bless our building of the labyrinth, those who would it, and all who would be a part of the Liturgy of The Light.

Laying Out The Labyrinth:

As always, we began by identifying the center and then laying out the “cross” that defines the turns. It’s easiest to lay out the twelve circles with fourteen people (one person to hold the measuring string in the center, another to hold its end, and twelve people to roll out the masking tape–one roll for each person) , but since we had six, we made that work. Little by little the circles came into being.

Once the circles were in place, it was time to work on removing excess tape on the entry paths and turns. We used diagrams of the labyrinth that I had marked ahead of time to orient our work.  We removed pieces of tape to allow free access on the path. We also peeled back one path-width of tape from the lines that crossed the circles so that walkers would be able to turn.

Because we needed to take a break from laying out the circles (due to a mis-calculation of how much tape  we needed–see challenges below) we laid out the center while waiting for more tape to arrive. Since this was a temporary labyrinth used only for a dance repetitions we decided to show only the six separate areas (“petals”) of the center with straight lines. Since my dyslexia presents challenges with measurements, I used the “body as tape-measure” method of working with the space. (As with everything in life, there is more than one way to find a good solution. I urge labyrinth builders to use the methods that make sense to them.)

Determining the size of the center partitions

Determining the size of the center partitions

Before rejoicing together in prayer and giving thanks for a new labyrinth, it’s always a good idea to walk the path to confirm that it leads directly, although circuitously, to the center. There are often little needed adjustments become clear only from the walker’s perspective.

Finishing walk and touches

Finishing walk and touches

Challenges Overcome:

Building a labyrinth seems to always offer an opportunity to learn something new and to adapt. Challenges involved not only the size of the room, but also the speakers’ podium that couldn’t be moved. I brought tape for the labyrinth that I had bought in Cambodia when we build a labyrinth there. It worked wonderfully on the Cambodian carpet, but wasn’t designed for a wooden floor. I also hadn’t measured the amount of tape needed correctly (hence the various colors). Fortunately one of the labyrinth builders made a trip to a local hardware store and with brought back masking tape that worked wonderfully.

Checking and repositioning the tape on one of the circles.

Checking and repositioning the tape on one of the circles.

Special Thanks: It is always meaningful to build a labyrinth, but it was a special joy to support the cathedral’s outreach through prayer that included use of their labyrinth. I would like to extend my deep appreciation to all who helped to build the masking tape labyrinth.

I would like to also thank all those who participated in the liturgy on Easter. The time they took to prepare helped the liturgy to become a great blessing.

Stay Tuned: My next blog will include photos of the Liturgy of Light from Easter Evening 2015.

Liturgy of the Light 2015


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