12 March 2017

Labyrinth

Yesterday, on my way to watch Hull City beat Swansea in The Premier League. I made a special detour to the North Lincolnshire village of Alkborough. It is situated on an escarpment overlooking Alkborough Flats and the confluence of the rivers Humber, Ouse and Trent.

The day was rather overcast so I must apologise for the dull quality of the accompanying photographs. One day I hope to return to take better, brighter pictures that do justice to Alkborough.

There has been a settlement at Alkborough since pre-Christian times. I imagine that the escarpment was a fine place for stone age folk to live - overlooking the river valley from hollows carved out of the chalky cliffside.

At some time in Alkborough's long history a strange  circular turf labyrinth or maze was created to the west of the village. The selfsame pattern may also be seen on the floor of the entrance to the village church which is dedicated to  St John the Baptist Church. During my visit, I also noted that the labyrinth design was replicated on the sign of the village's Coronation Club.
Locally, the turf maze is known as Julian's Bower. Legend says that Julius, the son of Aeneas, a Trojan warrior who appears in Homer's Iliad and Virgil's Aeneid, brought the idea of turf-cut mazes to Italy from Troy after it was destroyed by the Greeks. 

Some believe that it was The Romans who brought the idea of turf mazes to Britain but other learned observers suggest that they were a medieval invention. Perhaps the labyrinth was connected with penance or possibly it had a leisure-time purpose - some sort of game or puzzle perhaps. No one is quite sure but surely the presence of the geometric design at the church suggests some religious connection.
In past times there were many more turf labyrinths in Britain and other nations of north western Europe. To find out more, go here.

19 comments:

  1. My hunch is they served a medieval religious purpose, like meditating or prayer. It's cool to see such an old example of a walking maze. We have them in the states at meditation centers and hospitals and the like.

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    1. I think the maze at Alkborough needs a bit of maintenance. Perhaps Dave could volunteer? I think it is fascinating that these mazes possibly had their origins in Ancient Greece.

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  2. How interesting! And it reminds me of the maze puzzles found in children's puzzle books. That's a helpful link you provided as well.

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    1. I wonder if the idea of those maze puzzles was linked to these ancient labyrinth designs.

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  3. Labyrinths/mazes are fascinating! There is a tiny one in Ludwigsburg's palace grounds, but it is relatively newly planted (maybe 15 years ago, of young beech hedges) for the benefit of children.
    I remember the large one at Hampton Court. It wasn't too hard to find one's way through, but it was impressive by its sheer size.

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    1. The idea of a maze is rather magical isn't it? Finding one's way to the centre of things is never easy.

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  4. Aha! The aliens have landed...bringing their mowers and cement mixers with them!

    Mazes amaze, not to be tackled if in a haze!

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    1. It's good to laze in a maze, enjoying the sun's rays as one prays.

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    3. To laze and gaze at a maze is one of the better ways to past the days; it never ceases to amaze.

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    4. Indeed high praise as I dare utter a further phrase as I laze on my chaise writing essays...

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  5. That is weird. I was sure that I had written a post on a labyrinth at some time but it appears not. I shall now spend a few days (until I'm either successful or lose interest or forget) trying to recall the circumstances. They are quite fascinating.

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    1. I think that Britain has largely forgotten the significance of mazes that became something of a craze in the middle ages - probably driven by religious fashion.

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  6. Well, these labyrinths keep us wondering. You've shown that they go very far back in history.One thing I found out is that I don't know how to spell labyrinth. I had to check twice.

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    1. I hope you haven't got labyrinthitis Red!

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  7. With one word (Aeneas)you've transported me back to my university subsidiary studies of Latin! I'd forgotten all about him! Amazing how these labyrinths came about. Perhaps they have some religious connotation.

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    1. Well I am glad that this post transported you back to your salad days ADDY. Apparently there used to be a lot more of these mazes. It seems they became something of a fad in the middle ages.

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