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Life is a maze in which we take the wrong turn before we have learnt to walk. Cyril Connolly (1903-1974)

Ancient and modern mazes and patterns Ideas about mazes

My own mazes


Coin from Crete

We have already seen some Cretan coins with Cretan mazes on. This coin also comes from Crete, dated about 500 BC. It shows the minotaur (a man with the head of a bull) on one side, and a branching maze on the other. Unfortunately the details are not clear, but I've tried to work out what the maze might be. Cretan coin
Cretan coin One problem, as with all mazes, is to work out what is a path and what a wall. If you have been following my conventions, you may deduce that my plans is giving what I think are the walls. You may disagree, and you may also disagree with the lines that I have drawn. Also you will see that the proportions are different. I was trying to find some sort of symmetry or pattern (and failed miserably!) There are some interesting elements to this design, which you can also see in the coin.
There seem to be four square rooms in the corners, which you can't get into. There is also one room in the middle, which I think you can. Also, I suspect that the rectangle at the bottom (in the middle) is the door to the labyrinth. In a modern plan, this would merely be a gap in the wall, but ancient maps often gave front views of an object as well as views from above. I think this is a branching maze. I can't make it into a unicursal maze however I look at it. You can't describe it as a beautiful design. However, it is interesting, since it is a very early puzzle maze diagram (in fact, an island maze), and shows that not all Cretan mazes are of the Cretan form.

Book of Kells pattern

The magnificent Book of Kells has many patterns in it. One of the main figure paintings (probably Christ) has two green roundels near its base. It is not a maze, since there is no entrance or exit. However, once you are in it, if you imagine weaving over or under at the centre, you can travel on it forever. You travel one quarter before going onto the next, like Roman mazes. The Book of Kells is dated about 790-830 AD. It is kept in Trinity College, Dublin.
Book of Kells pattern

Soboba Hemet Maze

Richard M. Smith has drawn my attention to a maze from California. Here is the Soboba Hemet Maze Stone from Western Riverside county, California. I'm not too sure about his interpretation, so I've added my own - a meander rather than a maze, since there is no start or finish. I'm not sure of its date. It's described as prehistoric, but in America this merely means pre-European.

Soboba maze Soboba maze


Giovanni Fontana's maze

Giovanni Fontana's maze I have picked up references about this maze from internet, so don't know how reliable it is. This is supposed to be the oldest design of a branching maze, drawn in the diary of a Venetian physician named Giovanni Fontana (but see the coin, above). He read the myth of Theseus, and couldn't see how the existing drawn mazes were relevant, since they were unicursal, and so you couldn't get lost, and did not need a thread to find your way out. (I quite agree.) So he invented one! This happened in 1420, or 1395, the sources disagree. If you look at the possible paths to the centre, you can see that this is an island maze. If you take the right path, you ignore most of the maze altogether. Giovanni Fontana's maze

Gonzaga mazes

Part Gonzaga

The maze on the left is from a painting by Bartolommeo Veneto (1502-1546) called Portrait of a Gentleman. The maze is on the front of the gentleman's tunic. It looks as if it's painted on, but it might be embroidered. It is in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (UK). The maze is partly obscured by the gentleman's hand and clothes, so you can only see most of two arms and part of the third. The museum mentions that "the labyrinth is a Gonzaga symbol". The Gonzaga were an Italian family who ruled Mantua from 1328 to 1707. In Hamlet, there is a reference to an Italian king Gonzago.

The maze looks a bit like a Chartres design, but the details that we can see are different. It looks a little like the Gonzaga ceiling maze as well, but again, it's different. Of course, the artist may have made some mistakes!

There is a Gonzaga garden maze as well.


Huanghuazhen maze

Huanghuazhen maze

The Wanhua Zhen (10,000-flower maze), or Huanghuazhen (yellow-flower maze) is a maze in Xiyang Lou, ruins of 18th-century European-style imperial buildings on the grounds of the Old Summer Palace in Beijing, China. The maze is formed of 1.2 meter-high embossed-brick walls covering an area of 89 by 59 meters. The total length of the walls is 1.6 kilometers. In its center sits a European-style circular pavilion. The emperor is said to have sat in this pavilion to watch his concubines competing in a race with yellow lanterns through the labyrinth on the occasion of the Mid-Autumn Festival.

The photo on the right was taken by Rolf Müller (source Wikipedia)

Huanghuazhen maze

Bristol water maze

Bristol has a modern version of the Chartres maze inspired by the St Mary Redcliff roof boss. This is in Victoria Park and is shown on the right. The pathway is a channel of water from the spring that supplied St Mary's Conduit, an old water supply of Bristol. Since it is a Chartres design, it is a unicursal maze, without choices or branches. This maze is obviously modern, but I'm not sure exactly when it was built. Water maze in Bristol

Saffron Walden bandstand maze

This floor maze was opened recently during a Saffrom Walden maze festival. It is not possible to walk it while the bandstand is in use, though! It is an octagonal Chartres design.

Saffron Walden bandstand maze


Saffron Walden Amazes

Saffron Walden opened their fourth permanent maze in their Maze Festival 2016. This is by the Swan Meadow car park. It speels out "SAFFRON WALDEN AMAZES". There are eight finger mazes throughout, seven on top on the cubes, and the eighth as part of a head. The patterns of the finger mazes cover the history of maze design, from the classical (cretan) design onwards.

Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes Saffron Walden Amazes


Arkville maze

Arkville Maze

I found out about this maze from a exhibition of Michael Ayrton's works about the Minotaur, in the Fry Art Gallery in Saffron Walden, during their maze festival in 2016. Michael Ayrton became fascinated by mazes and their mythologies. He was commissioned by Arman Erpf of New York to make a maze on his estate in the Catsville mountains, west of Arkville and south of route 28. The maze is known as the Arkville Maze. It contains 1,680 feet of passageway, with brick walls running from six to eight feet in height. This picture is taken from Google satellite.


Toronto Public Labyrinth

This labyrinth at Trinity Square Park was opened September 14, 2005. According to Wikipedia: "As many labyrinths are found near the water, this labyrinth is located on the former course of Taddle Creek, a stream that has been buried for more than one hundred and fifty years. The granite blocks that have been set into the paving at the entrance to the labyrinth and the nearby water feature in the square serve as reminders of this buried creek. The labyrinth is oriented in the direction of true north, as indicated by the directional lines created with the granite blocks." It is a Chartres design, so it is a unicursal maze, without choices or branches. I think that the notice next to it is a raised pattern maze for the blind.

Toronto maze Toronto maze

Toronto maze

Another Toronto maze

There are plenty more mazes or labyrinths in Toronto! See City of Labyrinths website. Here is one by Christie subway station. It is a modified Chartres design, still a unicursal maze, without choices or branches. Since this is slightly different from the Chartres maze, and is modern, the design will be under copyright.

Toronto maze
Toronto maze Toronto maze

Warren Street maze

Warren Street station was opened as Euston Road by the CCE&HR on 22 June 1907. It was renamed less than a year later. Warren Street takes its name from Anne Warren, who was married to Charles Fitzroy, Baron Southampton, who was another landowner in the area. Warren Street itself was built in 1799.
Warren Street maze walls The Victoria line was built in 1967 as an extention to the London Underground, usually called the Tube. Most of the stations on the line already existed, but new platforms were built. These included mosaics. This maze design is an island maze. Warren Street maze
The Warren Street mosaic is by Alan Fletcher of Crosby/Fletcher/Forbes (forerunner of Pentagram Design Ltd), who chose a maze for passengers to while away the name until the next train. The artist noted that the average train interval was 3 minutes, and he tried to create a labyrinth which would be difficult to do in under 4 minutes. The maze is a visual pun of the station name. A warren was originally where rabbits were kept, but has come to mean a collection of confusing paths, like rabbit burrows.
(My thanks to London Transport Museum for this information and to Walter Pullen for a more accurate design above than mine!)

Temple maze

Here is another maze that I found in a London Underground station, at Temple underground station, on the eastwards platform. It's by Mark Wallinger, who has created a major new artwork for London Underground to celebrate its 150th anniversary. The result, commissioned by Art on the Underground, is a multi-part work on a huge scale that will be installed in every one of the Tube’s 270 stations. See website.

This maze a unicursal maze, similar to a Chartres pattern, but obviously different, since it is in three sections, not four. The white shows the path, and the black shows the walls.

As this is a modern maze, the copyright belongs to the designer, so should not be used without his permission.

Temple maze

'A' Maze

Alice Garrard of Connecticut, USA designed this maze for her quilt group's annual challenge in 2006. The challenge was Amazement. Naturally, she thought of mazes, and then of this, an 'A' maze. She designed a maze out of the letter A and superimposed it on a circular maze. The quilt is 28 inches by 41 inches. She says that it was great fun to do! The 'A' is an island maze.
A maze

Beazer Maze in Bath

Beazer Gardens is a small grassed area on the east side of the Bath weir. Access is from steps on Pulteney Bridge. The maze was designed by Adrian Fisher who says "I designed the pathway network of the Bath Maze;  actually it is both a unicursal labyrinth, and also a multi-cursal puzzle maze;  and it also invites children to invent and play games on its pathways (since it is flat)."

Please note: This is a modern maze, and therefore under copyright. The design must not be copied without permission of the copyright owner (which is not me!)

Beazer Maze in Bath
Part of the maze

Beazer Maze in Bath Beazer Maze in Bath
The paths of the maze (left) and the unicursal path in red on the right

Beazer Maze in Bath

The sign describing the maze, at the entrance, says:
This garden maze was given by Cyril Beazer to the citizens of Bath in 1973. The pavement maze was inspired by the 'Labyrinth' theme of the 1984 Bath Festival. Its elliptican shape recalls the Pulteney weir.

Beazer Maze in Bath
The mosaic centre of the maze features the Grgon, or Sun-god Sul, cult figurehead from the temple of Sulis Minerva. Ariadne's golden thread meanders through, inviting the eye to follow this inner maze.

It is surrounded by six apses - each designed as a gaze-maze - which celebrates Bath's Celtic and Roman heritage and cultural prestige.

Beazer Maze in Bath
1. Proserpine goddess of Spring, scattering flowers before the temple of Sulis Minerva. She evokes Bath, City of Flowers.

Beazer Maze in Bath
2. Dolphins, beloved sea-creatures of the ancients, were a favourite adornment of Roman baths.

Beazer Maze in Bath
3. The swine of Bladud, legendary founder of Bath, are coursing through the Autumn forest into the magic mire, which cured the herdsman's leprosy and restored him to kingship.

Beazer Maze in Bath
4. Orpheus, son of Apollo, who charmed the beasts of creation with his music, personifies the Summer Festival of Music and the Arts.

Beazer Maze in Bath
5. The Winged horse, Pegasus, kicked Mount Helicon, releasing the fount of poetry, this symbolising both the City of the Arts, and watering place.

Beazer Maze in Bath
6. Surprised in the Winter darkness of the labyrinth, the Minotaur awaits his executioner. Theseus is heralded by the flames of seasonal death.


Maze in Glasgow Green

Glasgow Green is a park in Glasgow by the River Clyde, just east of the town centre. It has a standard Chartres maze set into the paving, with a plaque in the centre.

Maze in Glasgow Green Centre of maze in Glasgow Green

Big Maze

This maze was sent to me by Jason Horsler (who of course owns the copyright). He made it using Microsoft Paint, and claims that it is the hardest maze in the world. That is a big claim, but it's a good maze! Click on it for a larger version - not as large or good quality as his original, but good enough to see detail.

Big maze by Jason Horsler

Lace Maze

This attractive maze is bobbin lace. It was designed and made by Pat Brunsdon, who has given permission for me to show it here.

It is a Chartres maze.

I also make bobbin lace, and have also attempted to make mazes, but they are not as attractive! Click here for pictures and the patterns to make them.

Lace maze by Pat Brunsdon

Ideas about mazes


A bead maze

Karen Robinson has evolved a wonderful way of walking a maze without even having the maze there. She is interested in rosaries and prayer beads, and suggests making up a string of beads which represent a maze, You then walk as directed by the beads. Her beads for the Chartres maze are given on her labyrinth webpage. Her webpage on prayer beads is also interesting.
Wisconsin Capitol

Couple walking and building

Margaret Calderon has come up with two interesting ideas. She suggests walking through a unicursal maze as a pair, hand-in-hand. The clasped hands are over the 'path' of the maze at all times, so the people will really be walking on top of the 'walls' - best done on a flat maze, like a turf maze! At some points, one partner will stand still as the other walks round the edge of a 'double-back'.

The other idea was to base a maze round a building. She has based two mazes around the Wisconsin Capitol, a cruciform building with a dome. By choosing her path around the various features carefully, she can walk the maze. Here is a 3-circuit 'baby' Chartres. She says that since the paths aren't marked, it's easy to get lost, and a well-designed string of beads may help.


A traintrack maze

Tim Fort has designed several mazes based on railway tracks (or railroads). They are branching mazes, but you do not have a free choice at each junction, because you are a train! So you must take the smooth bend at each junction, like railway points. Here is one of his mazes (with his permission):

traintrack maze

For more mazes like this, and an explanantion (if you need it) of these mazes, plus plenty more very attractive mazes, visit his website: Amazing Mazes. Please note that his mazes, including this one, are in copyright, so you must not use the image, or the design, without his permission.


My own mazes


Bathroom Maze

Bathroom Maze Bathroom Maze walls
I decided to paint a maze on my bathroom tiles. I wanted the maze to be a unicursal one, and interesting to look at rather than complicated. I came up with the design on the left, which is the path of the maze. The tiles were 6 inches square (15 cms). First I painted them with tile paint. I decided that the paths and walls should be 1.5 inches wide, so four fitted inside a tile. I managed to find some masking tape which was exactly the right width. Using the edges of the tiles as a guide, I masked the walls of the maze (on the right above) with the tape, and then it was easy to paint the paths. The result is on the right. Bathroom Maze photo


Mazes with four entrances

Someone asked me for a labyrinth with 4 entrances. While I don't know of any traditional mazes like this, it was fun to invent a few.

The simplest maze of all with four entrances is a four way spiral, which is attractive, but perhaps people would not think it complicated enough for a maze. It has the feel of a mandala. If you joined up pairs of paths in the centre, you create a maze with two entrances and two exits. Spirals have been used since before history began.

4 entrances spiral
4 entrances based on Roman

For a more complicated maze, the obvious place to start is the Roman maze, since it is already designed in 4 quarters. The maze on the left takes a standard pattern, and makes each quarter into its own maze. This leads to a more symmetrical and pleasing pattern. You could use any other Roman pattern, and perhaps even have different patterns in each quarter. You could also smooth out the corners to make a circular maze. The draw-back is that it is rather boring to walk, since each walker does not go outside his quarter of the maze.

Below is an attempt to interleave the different paths. I call it the Rose pattern, because it reminds me of the way rose petals fold into each other. This would be more obvious if I could draw it smoother.
4 entrances Rose pattern 4 entrances Rose walls 4 entrances Rose paths The red pattern on the left shows the paths, the blue pattern in the middle, the walls. The colouring on the right shows the different paths.
4 entrances Key paths This is a pattern based on a Greek key, so I call it the Key pattern. The paths interlock more. Again, the coloured pattern, on the left, show the four paths. The square shape makes it look completely different from the Rose pattern. 4 entrances Key pattern

Big spiral maze

Seeing the big maze above, I tried one of my own. This is based on a fractal idea, where a spiral is made up of little spirals. There are two entrances in each corner. Some travel across the maze, and some end in deadends. The coloured version on the right show where the paths go - the green paths are deadends.

Big spiral maze Big spiral maze

You can also fit several of these mazes together, which means that there are now only two paths travelling from one side to the other.

Big spiral maze

Big spiral maze


Rose maze

Rose maze

After making the rose maze above, I tried a pattern which looked more like a rose (see left). The red lines give the path. There are gaps, which makes it a branching maze with only one route to the centre. On the right, I have shown the dead-ends in green. There are a lot of them, but they are all quite short. You could join up the gaps and put them elsewhere to make a different maze.
Rose maze - quickest route

Octagonal Maze

Octagonal Mazes Someone asked me for a design of an octagon maze. You can make square mazes (like the Roman mazes) into an octagonal design by cutting off the corners and joining up the ends. Or you can repeat the quarter design eight times. On the left I have adapted the simplest Roman design to make a medallion pattern. There is a real mosaic very like this but round rather than octagonal. On the right is a Roman octagonal maze with four different paths.

Chartres octagonal mazes exist, but with as ordinary Chartres mazes made into a square, and then with the four corners chopped off. You could make a true 8-fold patter, with 7 arms the same and just the entrance arm different.

Octagonal Maze

Other mazes of mine in this website: