Terracotta Angel, c.1896
Watts Chapel, England

 Photo : Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos

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Labyrinths - The Major Categories

The earliest labyrinth symbols so far discovered are all of the same simple design - the “Classical” type - which is found worldwide and remain popular to this day. During this 4000 year history, the Classical labyrinth has developed into a number of closely related forms, often in particular geographical regions, by means of simple adjustments to the "seed pattern" that lies at the heart of its construction.

However, from time to time, major developments have taken place, resulting in quite different types of labyrinths being created, which have then themselves been further developed. This process continues to this day, indeed, since the 1980’s several radically new types of labyrinth designs have been created and these will undoubtedly continue to flourish and develop in the future.

To bring some sense of order to this multitude of seemingly different labyrinth designs, I would propose that labyrinths can be classified into four major categories, although all of these have various sub-categories, which can be further sub-divided if one so wishes. The major categories are Classical, Roman, Medieval & Contemporary Labyrinths - follow the links beneath each design for more details:

Labyrinth Typology

Projected light labyrinth,
Cork, Ireland

Photo : Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos

Classical Labyrinths

Dating back to the Neolithic period, and found worldwide, these are by far the oldest and most widespread type of labyrinth

Roman Labyrinths

First developed in the 2nd century BCE, they are found throughout Europe and North Africa, wherever the Romans settled

Medieval Labyrinths

First developed in 9th/10th century Europe, they soon spread throughout Europe and have become especially popular in modern times

Contemporary Labyrinths

First developed in the late 20th century, this rapidly evolving group often have unusual designs, but are clearly labyrinths by intention

Next Page : Classical Labyrinths