Terracotta Angel, c.1896
Watts Chapel, England

 Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos



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Gevninge Church, near Roskilde, Sjælland.

Two labyrinths painted on the triumphal wall, now situated above the line of later vaulting and partly obscured by the vault. Neither is visible from inside the church and can only be viewed by climbing over the top of the vaulting from a small hatch in the wall of the church tower. Both are of double angle, or classical, type with 12 walls, and approximately 50 cm. in diameter. They were both originally painted in two colours; red, which is still visible, and possibly blue, which has almost totally faded with time. One has alternate walls painted in different colours; the other has the centre and two outer circuits in red. The vault which partly covers these labyrinths is from the 15th century, implying that the labyrinths must predate it and were probably painted sometime in the late 14th century.

Literature:
Danmarks Kirker, lidgivet af Natioalmuseet: Københavns Amt, Bd.11. Copenhagen, 1946, p.873-880. Thordrup, Jørgen. "Fra Tranedans tll Häkkeløb" Iconografisk Post 1976, nr.1-2, p.23-36. Saward, Jeff & Jørgen Thordrup. "Mazes & Labyrinths of Denmark" Caerdroia 24 (1991), p.38-47. Kern, Hermann. Through the Labyrinth, Prestel, München, 2000, p.279. Thordrup, Jørgen. Alle Tiders Labyrinter. Silkeborg, Denmark: Dixit,2002, p.114-115. Saward, Jeff. Labyrinths & Mazes. London: Gaia, 2003, p.108-111.


Hesslager Church, Fyn.

Only around 40 cm. in diameter, the labyrinth, painted in dark red pigment high on the vault of the nave, is of double angle classical type with 12 walls. The labyrinth is quite unusual: the dots at the corners of the central 'seed pattern' are enclosed within small circles and the outer circuit of the labyrinth is decorated with 11 leaf-like appendages. Immediately to the left of the labyrinth are some confusing figures that should probably interpreted as a date (commonly quoted as 1487) and to the lower right of the labyrinth the word "Maria." While the date alongside the labyrinth is uncertain, a late 15th century origin would seem quite plausible. Adjacent to the labyrinth are several geometric figures and a scene depicting a dog, or fox, and a bird (a Crane?) apparently drinking from a jug.

Literature:
Danske Kalkmalerier: Sengotik 1475-1500, Bd.5. Copenhagen, 1991, p.78-79. Thordrup, 1976, p.23-36. Saward & Thordrup, 1991, p.38-47. Kern, 2000, p.280. Thordrup, 2002, p.105-106. Saward, 2003, p.108-111.


Vissenbjerg Church, Fyn.

Uncovered during 1976 on the north wall of the nave, this 8-walled single angle classical labyrinth was painted in red pigment, 80 x 75 cm. in diameter. Dated to 1480-90, the labyrinth was subsequently covered for protection.

Literature:
Danske Kalkmalerier: Sengotik 1475-1500, Bd.5, p.82-83. Saward, Jeff & Jørgen Thordrup. "Mazes & Labyrinths of Denmark III" Caerdroia 26 (1993), p.57. Thordrup, 2002, p.109. Saward, 2003, p.108-111.


Roerslev Church, Fyn.

Discovered during restoration work in 1995, this well-preserved 16-wall triple angle classical labyrinth is situated on the vaulting above the choir arch. 125 x 110 cm in diameter, it is one of the largest known and similar to the examples at Nim and Hesselager, also has circles at the corners of the 'seed pattern'. Probably painted sometime in the 15th century, the labyrinth is rendered in red and blue pigment, with the central 'seed' and the first nine walls out from the centre in red, and the remaining seven outer walls in blue. Whether this had significance to the unknown artist, or maybe they ran out of red paint half way through completing the design, it does demonstrate clearly the freehand process used to construct this complex design.

Literature:
Kern, 2000, p.280. Thordrup, 2002, p.107-108. Saward, 2003, p.108-111.


Julskov Cross, Kullerup, Fyn.

See Levide, Gotland, Sweden.


Skive Old Church, Jylland.

A large labyrinth, c.125 cm. in diameter, of triple angle classical type with 16 walls, is painted in red on the west wall of the church, partly obscured behind the church organ. The church (and presumably the labyrinth) dates to the 1520's and the wall frescos were restored in 1991-92. The labyrinth adjoins a depiction of St. Christopher, patron saint of travellers, who holds a large fish in his hand. Scandinavian folklore mentions the walking of labyrinths to ensure good conditions and catches before setting out to sea; perhaps this painting shows a link between the protector of travellers in Christian iconography with the traditional practices of fishing communities in medieval Denmark.

Literature:
Danske Kalkmalerier: Sengotik 1475-1500, Bd.5, p.135. Thordrup, 1976, p.23-36. Saward & Thordrup, 1991, p.38-47. Kern, 2000, p.280. Thordrup, 2002, p.96. Saward, 2003, p.108-111.


Taaning Church, near Skanderborg, Jylland.

A triple angle classical labyrinth with 16 walls, dated to c.1500 CE, was discovered painted on the vault of the church and subsequently covered with limewash for protection in 1957. A man with a yoke or paddle over his shoulder carrying a bucket, and an animal, probably a dog or a fox, tied to a tree trunk, accompanied the labyrinth. The connection between the various design elements is unclear, but may possibly illustrate a popular folktale of the time.

Literature:
Danmarks Kirker, Aarhus Amt, Bd.48, p.4602-03. Thordrup, 1976, p.23. Saward & Thordrup, 1991, p.41. Kern, 2000, p.280. Thordrup, 2002, p.99. Saward, 2003, p.108-111.


Nim Church, Jylland.

During restoration work in 1990 traces of a large labyrinth were uncovered painted on the north wall of the church. Although only part of the labyrinth survived, it is probable that it would originally have been around 175 cm. in diameter and was of the double angle classical type, but with a curious error in the drawing technique, that would have given it 14 walls, instead of 12. As at Hesslager and Roerslev, the dots normally found in the corners of the 'seed pattern' are drawn as small circles. The remains of the fresco was subsequently covered and is not currently visible.

Literature:
Danske Kalkmalerier: Sengotik 1475-1500, Bd.5, 1991, p.32. Saward & Thordrup, 1991, p.40. Thordrup, 2002, p.93. Saward, 2003, p.108-111.


Gylling Church, Jylland.

Parts of a labyrinth design were recorded in this church, discovered during restoration in 1907, situated to the left of the window on the north wall, although no trace of this is now visible. Nearby was a depiction of Saint Christopher, as at Skive. The frescos were dated to the late 1300's or early 1400's.

Literature:
Danmarks Kirker, Aarhus Amt, Bd.16, p.2819-20. Saward & Thordrup, 1993, p.57. Thordrup, 2002, p.87. Saward, 2003, p.108-111.


Bryrup Church, Jylland.

Uncovered during restoration work in 1989, this labyrinth, dated to c.1500 CE and around 55 cm. in diameter, was still faintly visible. Although parts of the design were badly damaged, it was clearly of the triple angle classical type, but apparently contained several drawing errors and was fairly crudely executed. It is no longer visible.

Literature:
Danmarks Kirker, Aarhus Amt, Bd.8, p.3916. Saward & Thordrup, 1993, p.57. Thordrup, 2002, p.87. Saward, 2003, p.108-111.


Skørring Church, Jylland.

During restoration of the church in 1962, two labyrinths, both c.90 cm. in diameter and painted in red, were uncovered. The better preserved of the two was of the typical triple angle classical type with 16 walls and carefully drawn. The other example was only partly visible. Both were dated to c.1500 CE, but neither are currently visible.

Literature:
Danmarks Kirker, Aarhus Amt, Bd.16, p.1931. Saward & Thordrup, 1993, p.57. Thordrup, 2002, p.97. Saward, 2003, p.108-111.

Labyrinths in Nordic Churches

John Kraft & Jeff Saward

Catalogue of Nordic Church Labyrinths

Denmark

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