Labyrinth of the Reims Cathedral

The Labyrinth of the Reims Cathedral was a church labyrinth installed on the floor of the nave of the Reims Cathedral.

Labyrinthe Gaucher Jean Lou Jean d'Orbais Bernard de Soissons dessin jacques Cellier XVIe html m7e77111d
The labyrinth with its drawing of people.


The labyrinth was the shape of a complex square with cut corners and sides of 10.36 metres (11.33 yd) .[1] The paths were 27.94 centimetres (11.00 in) wide, separated by lines of dark blue stone from Ardennes of a width of 11.43 centimetres (4.50 in).[2] The labyrinth was made of soft stone that wore out beneath the feet of pilgrims. This stone was of the same kind as Pierre Libergier's tombstone that is now exhibit in the cathedral.[2]

A distinctive aspect of the labyrinth was the inclusion within it of depictions of the master masons of the cathedral. In other churches and cathedrals, they are unknown and anonymous. Indeed, the identities of these master masons are precisely known, because a survey of the labyrinth was drawn in 1640 by Canon Cocquault and in 1779, just before its destruction, by Robin and Havé. These surveys also contained dates and descriptions of the masons' works.[2]

The person most responsible for construction is generally identified as Aubry de Humbert, Archbishop of Reims, who decided in 1211 to build a new cathedral in the place of the one destroyed by fire in 1210.[3]

The people in the corners of the labyrinth are successive master masons of the cathedral:[1][2][3]

  • (Top right) : Jean Orbais (1211-1231) made the plans of the cathedral and began the apse.
  • (Top left) : Jean-le-Loup (1231-1247) began the northern portals.
  • (Bottom left) : Gaucher de Reims (1247-1255) began the arches and portals on the western façade.
  • (Bottom right) : Bernard de Soissons (1255-1290) made five vaults of the nave and the great rosace.

Bernard de Soissons was in charge during the inauguration of the labyrinth. There is no trace of the fifth (and probably best-known) contractor, Robert de Coucy, who was in charge from 1290 to 1311 and who oversaw the carpentry and the roof.[2]

The masons are represented hard at work, with their tools in hand. For example, Jean d'Orbais appears to draw a map on the floor.[2]

There were also two other silhouettes on each side of the entrance of the labyrinth; however, these could not be identified because they were already almost completely eroded.[2]

Labyrinth in Reims cathedral
The labyrinth at its place in the nave.


The church labyrinths were polychrome pavements symbolizing the rise of Christ at Calvary.[4] Christian people followed them on their knees as a symbolic pilgrimage or to win indulgences [3][4]

The labyrinth was inaugurated at the coronation of Philippe le Bel on 6 January 1286.[2] It covered the central part of the nave at the third and fourth spans.[2][3]

The labyrinth was destroyed in 1779 by the Canons (priests charged with running the cathedral), who were disturbed by children playing on the labyrinth during ceremonies.[3]

Labyrinthe 00625
Enlightenment of the labyrinth at its place in the nave.

Reconstruction project

A plan to rebuild the labyrinth ran into technical and administrative difficulties.[4] Instead, a choice was made to undertake a reversible and nondamaging reconstruction. This took the form of a light projection on the ground that plays only in the evening, during cultural events. It was inaugurated on 19 September 2009.[4]

Logo monument historique - rouge, encadré
Logo for French historical monuments

Logo of historical monuments

The labyrinth has been chosen as the national logo for French historical monuments ("monuments historiques"). This logo depicts the labyrinth without people, rotated by 45°, and often in a dark red color.


  1. ^ a b "Le labyrinthe disparu de la cathédrale de Reims" (in French). Charte de Fontevrault. Retrieved 2014-01-06.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Naert, Dominique (1996). Le labyrinthe de la cathédrale de Reims [Labyrinth of the Reims Cathedral] (in French). 29 rue Gay- Lussac, 94120 Fontenay -sous -Bois: SIDES. p. 96. ISBN 978-2-86861-073-7.
  3. ^ a b c d e Yann Harlaut. "Bienvenue à la découverte de ce joyau de l'art gothique" (in French). Retrieved 2014-01-06.
  4. ^ a b c d "Reims Our Lady Cathedral" (in French). Direction régionale des affaires culturelles de Champagne-Ardenne. Retrieved 2014-01-06.


  • Naert, Dominique (1996). Le labyrinthe de la cathédrale de Reims [Labyrinth of the Reims Cathedral] (in French). 29 rue Gay- Lussac, 94120 Fontenay -sous -Bois: SIDES. p. 96. ISBN 978-2-86861-073-7.
Jean d'Orbais

Jean d'Orbais (ca. 1175-1231) was a French architect from Orbais-l'Abbaye, active in the Reims area. He was an architect of the High Gothic style and the first of the four architects of the Cathedral of Reims, where he is depicted in the labyrinth mosaic in the nave. He was responsible for the design of and initial work on the cathedral of Notre Dame de Reims.

Monument historique

Monument historique (French: [mɔnymɑ̃ istɔʁik]) is a designation given to some national heritage sites in France. It may also refer to the state procedure in France by which National Heritage protection is extended to a building, a specific part of a building, a collection of buildings, garden, bridge, or other structure, because of their importance to France's architectural and historical cultural heritage. Both public and privately owned structures may be listed in this way, as well as movable objects. As of 2012 there were 44,236 monuments listed.

Buildings may be given the classification for both their exteriors or interiors, including a building's décor, its furniture, a single room, or even a staircase. An example is the Monument Historique classification of the décor in the café "Deux Garçons" in Aix-en-Provence whose patrons once included Alphonse de Lamartine, Émile Zola and Paul Cézanne. Some buildings are designated because of their connection to a single personality, such as the Auberge Ravoux in Auvers-sur-Oise which is designated an MH because of its connection to the painter Vincent van Gogh. Since the 1990s, a significant number of places have been given the designation because of their historical importance to science.

The MH designation traces its roots to the French Revolution when the government appointed Alexandre Lenoir to specify and safeguard certain structures. Though the first classifications were given in the 19th century by the writer Prosper Mérimée, inspector-general of historical monuments, by a first list established in 1840. In 1851, Mérimée organized the Missions Héliographiques to document France's medieval architecture.

A "monument historique" may be marked by the official logo of the Union REMPART, a French historical restoration association. It consists of a design representing the labyrinth that used to be in Reims Cathedral, which is itself a World Heritage Site. Use of the logo is optional.


In geometry, an octagon (from the Greek ὀκτάγωνον oktágōnon, "eight angles"). Is an eight-sided polygon or 8-ton

A regular octagon has Schläfli symbol {8} and can also be constructed as a quasiregular truncated square, t{4}, which alternates two types of edges. A truncated octagon, t{8} is a hexadecagon, t{16}.

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