MATTHEWS. MAZES AND LABYRINTHS 1922, chapters, illustrations and a selection of plates.


How are mazes to be drawn ?
How are they to be planned ?





The best of modern mazes e.g.The Private Maze at Troy Farm, Somerton, a classical turf maze.


Batty Langley's design for a maze from New Principles of Gardening 1728



• 18th century Dutch maze in garden at Gunterstien

• illustration to Ovid's Metamorphosis in the Venetian edition of 1570.




Maze and Labyrinth Images of the Maze
The Maze as sequence , typical features .
1. a beginning.
2. a directed unfolding (blind alleys - persuasive red herrings)
3. the culmination, the feature at the centre.
But untypical features,
4. the second culmination, getting out.
5. the possibility of never getting out.
Definitions .
Labyrinth, buildings partly or wholly subterranean containing a number of chambers and intricate passages. In gardening, a labyrinth or maze , an intricate network of winding paths.
The Landscape Maze

1. public places, the the maze on the playstow; "the quaint mazes in the wanton green For lack of tread are indistinguishable" (A Midsummer night's Dream). Cut turf patterns, in Pliny Natural History, popular in medieval England as Troy Town, Julian's Bower, Maiden's Bower, Shepherd's Race etc.

2. the maze in the private garden, Batty Langley, at Hampton Court ; Somerleyton House; and the Labyrinth at Versailles; the cut turf extended in the forms suggested by the Renaissance garden; the hedges should be of an even thickness and lead to the centre where there is a seat or fountain. The Hampton Court maze, laid out c1700 . Plans for a solution of the maze, keep your hand on the right hand of the hedge. The Labyrinth at the Villa Worlitz, the emblematic garden commemorating the central themes of Antiquity.

The Architectural Maze

the Chartres Labyrinth, to symbolise the earthly passage of the soul in its search for salvation, is an exact geometrical equivalent (an in measurement to the rose window representing the Last Judgement).See Crichlow below. Reproduced Curtis p.37. The pilgrims visiting Chartres used the Labyrinth as a substitute for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Zodiacal and geometric pavements as cosmic lessons for the faithful. See also the Labyrinth at Rheims Cathedral (16th c, destroyed 18th c) where 4 master masons were named, one for each corner, with the archbishop at the centre. See Curtis p.36
The architectural journey to the centre is at the heart of Freemasonry (see Curtis). The Architect was closely associated with Daedelus. See also Norman J.Johnson beneath
Isabelle de Beaufort's splendid environmental maze in the village of reignac sur Indre in France. The routes are cut out of the growing crops and are grown again the following year. " The Guardian July 19th 1997 reports Ms de Beaufort saying, "We seem to have struck a sympathetic chord with a public looking for something more peaceful and more thoughtful than commercial theme parks. Photo by Frederic Reglain.

The Three Types of Labyrinth according to Umberto Eco- The Name of the Rose.
1. The Greek Labyrinth "This kind does not allow anyone to get lost: you go in, arrive at the centre, and then from the centre you reach the exit." eg the labyrinth of Theseus,at the heart is the Minotaur ; half man, half bull; the fruit of the unnatural liason between Pasiphae (who had married Minos) and the Sacred White Bull, made possible by Daedelus'cunning engineering. R.Garves I p.294. "Minos consulted an oracle to know how he might best avoid scandal and conceal Pasiphae's disgrace. The response was - Instruct Daedelus to build you a retreat at Knossus. This Daedelus did and spent the remainder of his lfe in the inextricable maze called the Labyrinth, at the heart of which he concealed Pasiphae and the Minotaur. "Exacting some obscure revenge, Minos demanded that every ninth year seven boys and seven girls be fed to the Minotauar. The Hero and Professional Righter of Dreadful Wrongs, Theteus pitied the parents of the sacrificed children and had himself taken as one of the youths, disguising two effeminate youths of great bravery and ingenuity as maidens. Theseus killed the Minotaur in the Labyrinth and emerged using a length of thread for a passionate embrace from Minos' new wife. A myth of sexual passion and labyrinthine doings. "if he were not there the story would have no zest, it would be a mere stroll. Terror is born, if it is born, from the fact that you do not know where you will arrive or what the Minotaur will do. "Eco. Reflections.

2. The Mannerist Labyrinth ; "if you unravel it, you find in your hands a kind of tree, a structure with roots, with many blind alleys. There is only one exit, but you can get it wrong. You need an Ariadne's thread to keep from getting lost. This labyrinth is the model of the trial and error process.

3. The Net or Rhyzome Labyrinth . "so constructed that every path can be connected with every other one. OIt has no centre, no periphery, no exit because it is potentially infinite. The space of conjecture is a rhyzome space. The labyrinth of my Library is a rhyzome space.
Eco and Borges ; Literature and the Labyrinth; the labyrinth is a much used metaphor for the human condition and for human intellectual speculation. Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose, the unravelling of the great labyrinth by Adso and William. ("How beautiful is the world and how ugly labyriths !")
See also J.L.Borges, the Argentinian poet, essayist and philosopher, see volume of stories, Labyrinths. that Borges early work used two predominatn symbols, the mirror and the search. The search implied the labyrinth. " The universe which others call the Library is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast airshafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons one can see interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable.....The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If an eternal traveller were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder..."
Labyrinth and the Visual Arts

1. Picasso was particularly associated with the legend of the Minotaur, in the late twenties, then in a series of images in all media, 1933, 4 and 5, eg Blind Minotaur, Dying Bull, the Minotauromachy etchings of spring 1935 culminating in Guernica 1937 .

2. George Tooker's Labyrinth paintings set in the New York Undergound Railway passages. eg Subway. Also Tooker's Bureaucracy paintings, Government Bureau, Landscape with Figures etc.

3. Robert Smithson, American sculptor, earth projects involving meanders, mazes, spirals and broken circles.

4. Piranesi, Italian printmaker, the Carceri series of the 1740's, vast labyrinths for prisoners.

The Labyrinth on Film ;

The Shining , directed by Stanley Kubrick, 1980, after the novel by Stephen King. Kubrick replaces King's Topiary and Rocque Court with an external garden maze as a metaphor for Jack Torrance's madness, and to mirror the inner amaze of the hotel."Mazes, like games of chess (Kubrick's favourite pastime) - combine design and deception, paths and choices, fate and cul-de-sacs ; all of which in variuous guises, play significant thematic roles in almost every Kubrick film. Mazes are highly artificial human contrivances whose orderly and complex sense of purpose involves a twofold conceptual game in which the player must not only search for the centre but remember how to get out."
see also Paths of Glory
and Barry Lyndon.

Other movies that use the Labyrinth ;

Alain Resnais, Last Year at Marienbad 1961.

Peter Greenaway The Draughtsman's Contract.

see also
1. The Crazy House Mirror Maze from Orson Welles' The Lady from Shanghai
2. Maidens to the heart of the mountain maze in Peter Weir's Picnic at Hanging Rock .
3. At the heart of the maze in Tarkovsky's The Stalker
4. The influence of Escher in Ridley Scott's Labyrinth .
5. Sewers as Labyrinth, post-war Vienna in Carol Reed's The Third Man


The Four Great Labyrinths of Antiquity (from Pliny)

1. The Egyptian labyrinth as described by Herodotus, a building surrrounded by a single wall, containing 1500 rooms above ground and 1500 beneath ground. 2300 BC a cluster of sepulchral centres for kings and sacred crocodiles.

2. The Cretan Labyrinth supposedly built by Daedelus for Minos, the first ruler of all the Mediterranean; perhaps built near Knossus, and associated with the legend of the Minotaur. Daedelus is the mythic craftsman, designer, fabricator of ingenious devices (see below).

3. The Lemnian Labyrinth, built on the design of 1.

4. The Italian Labyrinth, a series of chambers in the lower part of the tomb of Porsena at Clusium. The tomb led down to the labyrinth from which it was particularly difficult to find the way out.  
Film Sequences


T.H.Garver, George Tooker, Rizzoli, NY 1977

Geoffrey Grigson, The Shell Country Alphabet , Joseph London 1966 (under Mazes)

Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, 2 vols, Penguin Harmondsworth, 1966 (paperback)

Michael Ayrton, The Maze Maker ,an invented biography of Daedelus, Longmans Green London 1967.

Keith Crichlow, "The Chartres Maze", Architectural Assocation Quarterly, vol 5 no2, 11.20.

The myth of the Minotaur also to be seen in Euripedes, Hippolytus, in the works of Ovid ( Metamorphosis), Plutarch, Virgil and Catullus.

T.A.Nelson, Kubrick, Inside a Film Artist's Maze , Indiana Univ.Press Bloomington, 1982 (Chapter on The Shining).

Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose,
Picador, London 1983.

Umberto Eco, Reflections on The Name of the Rose, Secker & Warburg London 1983.

J.L.Borges, Labyrinths, Penguin Harmondsworth 1983, see the following stories, "The Library of Babel", "The Garden of Forking Paths", and "The Circular Ruins".

Greg Bright's Hole Maze, Fontana Paperback London 1979

J.S.Curl, The Art and Architecture of Freemasonry, Batsford London 1991 (Chapter on the Elysian Fields).

Norman J.Johnson, Cities in the Round ,University of Washington Press, Seattle and London, 1983.