The Chartres Labyrinth brings history to life
As a medieval historian, I am fascinated by the culture and society of medieval Europe. The Chartres Labyrinth canvas flooring, which the Diocese has so generously provided*, has brought a segment of that history to life. Since 2009, I've borrowed the labyrinth five different times and set it up at UWF. I present this project during the semester when I teach my High Middle Ages history class. When we talk about the Gothic cathedrals and the culture of that period, my students can actually experience how it felt to walk that labyrinth at Notre Dame de Chartres. We try to recreate the experience as authentically as possible (here in Pensacola!), with candlelight, incense, dim lighting, and period compositions, particularly those composed for Notre Dame de Chartres and Notre Dame de Paris c. 1200. This semester, we added another dimension to the experience: live Gregorian Chant. Our Choral Director, Dr. Peter Steenblik, directed the UWF Chamber Singers in chant for one hour each day of the four days of the event. The students dressed in authentic costuming as medieval monks and nuns. Many students, both religious and not, expressed their appreciation for the experience of walking the labyrinth in that atmosphere. Many noted the calming effect of the exercise.
The labyrinth has become an integral component of my teaching, and is interpreted educationally as "High Impact Learning." Such experiences are valued in higher education because they directly engage the students and immerse them in the cultural encounter; thus, they gain a deeper understanding of the period, and value that knowledge.
*The portable, canvas Chartres labyrinth is 32 ft in diameter. For churches or organizations wishing to reserve the labyrinth for indoor use, please contact the Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast, Duvall Center at (850) 434-7337 or firstname.lastname@example.org.