The Labyrinth of Chartres


Technical Data


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the ground-plan

The following data are taken from the book of John and Odette Ketley-Laporte: Chartres - le labyrinthe déchiffré, Editions Garnier 1997. There are other numerical data in other works, they may give rise to all possible, but quite more impossible speculations. Maybe even the data in this book. But one must begin somehow.




The location of the labyrinth in the cathedral is not chosen arbitrarily and its dimensions are not accidental, there are hidden many numeral qualities, which are no more familiar to us today. Surely we will not arrive to understand them completely.


seen from the pulpitThe 11-circuit labyrinth is not a new development of Chartres. It was already well-known before. The toothed circumference and the center with the 6 circular elements are new. The completion was in the year 1200, it was planned intensively and in detail. The labyrinth had a prime at that time and was also built in other Gothic cathedrals. It was new to all of them that they were walkable and that their symbolism was (also) based on mathematical elements.


seen from outsideThe labyrinth of Chartres is designed according to the geometry of the circle both in the whole as well as in many details. The circle is the symbol of the eternity, the infinity, of the omnipotence of God, of the sun. The sun anew is in Christianity the symbol for Christ, the new sun. The 114 graduations at the outside of the perimeter (also called lunations) divided by 6 (the number of perfection) result in 19, the number of the sun. The Flower of Life has also 19 circles.


turnsThe Chartres labyrinth has a diameter of 12.858 m including the lunations, without them a diameter of 12.455 m. The Australian architect John James says that the diameter of the labyrinth is equal to a circle which contains an isosceles triangle, which again corresponds to the half diagonal of the crossing of the nave and the transept. With that the figures of the circle, of the square (= the holy), of the triangle (= the spirit or the perfection) would be contained in the crossing and in the labyrinth.


the entranceIn the Middle Ages there was a good dozen of "feet" as units with its derivatives hand, span, yard, thumb etc. In Chartres at least 4 different were used. The Roman foot with 294.45 mm and a further with 294.2 mm were common. The architects of the Middle Ages were fascinated by numbers. The circle played a large role, one generally used a value of 22:7 = 3.1428 for the unit Pi. In the school of Chartres a more exact value of 399:127 = 3.1417323 could have been calculated, which is not so far away from our current value of 3.1415927. The circumference was thus specified with the integral values of 399 "hands" and the diameter with 127 "hands".


the upper endThe way in the labyrinth is made of bright, very hard stones from the quarries of Berchères and is on an average 343.23 mm wide. The stones are very carefully formed with different inner and outer diameters and are made in relatively long pieces. There are 273 pieces (or 276, points of fracture taken into consideration or not). The last stone at the entrance to the center has a length of 1.64 m, which can be interpreted as the average size of the medieval humans. The length of the way is 261.5 m according to John James or said in other units 740 "long feet" or 888 "Roman feet". Both numbers loaded with symbolism. The cross sum of 740 is 11 (=7+4+0), and 888 is the numeric value for the name of Christ in the Greek system. The 11 stands for the inner fight, the aberration, the trespassing of the Ten Commandments and the penalty.

The black, smaller stones from quarries of Senlis or the region of Givet separate and limit the ways. The outermost bounds and the inside limitation around the center are 85 mm wide and the others between the 11 white rings measure about 81 mm including the joints.


the lunationsThe black 114 lunations (more exactly said 113, because one is omitted for the entrance) serve as separation from the rectangular plates of the nave and as tying of the labyrinth in the floor. They were maybe inserted as first. The height of the teeth arises as a result of the difference of the overall diameter minus the diameter of the 11 rings and the center divided by 2: (12858 mm - 12455 mm) : 2 = 201.5 mm. Each tooth is manufactured from one piece with the dimensions 343.23 mm wide, 288 mm high, an opening of 262 mm and a clearance of 280 mm to the neighbouring piece. The thin place is 70 mm wide, the upper width is 93 mm. Thus a model for the stone-masons could be manufactured. The counterparts from bright stones follow these measures, are however made of larger parts.


entering the centerThe center itself has a diameter of 2.942 m. The innermost circle has a diameter of 1.57 m. It contained a today no longer existing copper plate. The six inner petals follow the harmonious division with 3, 5, 7 and 10 units (counted in feet). All this parts consist of partial circles. In the small clover-leaf of the closing the square root of 10 is expressed.


leaving the centerThe rose of six petals may remind the name "Mystic Rose" for Mary, popular in the Middle Ages, and the popularity of the rose for the alchemists. Although the natural rose has only five petals, here probably the number six was chosen to demonstrate perfection.




More about the location of the labyrinth >

More about the meaning of the numbers >

Poetical >

Links to Chartres >

Photographs from the labyrinth in the Photo Gallery under Chartres >

Journey with Gernot Candolini 2003 >

Journey with Robert Ferré 2004 >

How long is the path in the Chartres Labyrinth? >

How many lunations has the Chartres Labyrinth? >