Archaeologists believe labyrinths date back 4,500 years, though no physical evidence survives. The “Earth Labyrinth”—built to honour the Earth Goddess—appeared in Crete around 1200 B.C. and is the oldest on record. Similar versions of this simple spiral pattern have been discovered in Egypt, India, Russia and Peru.
The first Christian labyrinth, discovered in the fourth-century Basilica of Reparatus in Orleansville, Algeria, contains the words “Sancta Eclesia” inscribed in the middle, indicating its use for religious purposes. This and other labyrinths, like those that predated them, were constructed with a path that led easily to the centre.
Medieval labyrinths, which began to appear around the 13th century, demonstrated a new design. Their paths wove back and forth between quadrants, creating mystery within the walk. The most famous of these labyrinths, installed at the Chartres Cathedral in France around 1200 A.D., switches walkers among sections—sometimes brushing close to the centre, sometimes traveling on the outer perimeter—before entering the middle.
The labyrinth idea strongly resurfaced in the 1990s when the Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress—then canon for special ministries at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco—became one of the leaders in reintroducing them to the world. Many built now are patterned after those constructed in Europe hundreds of years ago.
Our Labyrinth: The Way of the Heart
The opportunity to develop the MacKillop College labyrinth came about as part of the construction of the Chapel of Saint Mary of the Cross.
The Sacred Heart of Jesus was a very important aspect of Mary MacKillop’s spirituality and this labyrinth allows us to explore the role of Jesus in our own lives in a contemporary kinaesthetic way.
At seven points throughout the labyrinth there are places to pause and reflect. At each point you will find a short piece of scripture, a one line prayer matched to the scripture and a reflective question to ponder as you walk to the next point of reflection. At the centre of the labyrinth you are confronted with a stark sculpture of Jesus. A Jesus stripped bare, with a crown of thorns. At this point you are asked to question how you respond to suffering in the world. Finally, at the end of our prayer journey we are challenged to ‘go forth’, ‘keep Jesus at your centre’ and ‘be his action in the world’. The sculpture at the centre of the labyrinth is the ‘skeleton’ made by our sculptor Chris Sage when forming our ‘Triumphant Jesus’ which hangs above the altar in the chapel.