AMIENS CATHEDRAL

Amiens Cathedral, a couple of hours' drive north of Paris, is generally considered to be the greatest example of High Gothic style. The "formula" was developed at Chartres between 1194 and 1221.

Just as Chartres was being finished, Amiens was being started. It was completed around 1289. Although Reims is more ornate, Amiens is the largest of the Gothic cathedrals.

Do you remember the movie "2001"? In it a cave man discovers that he can use a length of bone as a weapon (in other words, a tool). He uses it to his advantage, and in his joy throws it into the air. The bone morphs into a space ship. The point is, that once man discovered tools, it eventually led to space ships. Well, there is a favorite quotation of mine that says once the ogival arch was discovered (the pointed Gothic arch), Amiens was inevitable. Actually, I think it would be more correct to say that of the flying buttress.

I remember seeing a web page about Amiens, sponsored by a university (perhaps Columbia). An Internet search would turn it up. Amiens is of interest to us because it has a labyrinth that is normally uncovered and available to the public. It has the same path arrangement as the Chartres labyrinth, but is octagonal rather than round. Since it is made out of tiles, the paths and the lines between the paths are the same width. Further, the path is the dark color, so you walk the black line. The original labyrinth was destroyed around 1825 but then rebuilt in 1895.

The middle photo shows one of our groups walking the Amiens labyrinth in September of 1996. To the front left, in the pink sweater, is the Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, a pioneer of the labyrinth movement. This was the first trip that I organized for Veriditas. We did two more, in 1997 and 1998.

People sometimes tell me that they visited Chartres but never saw the labyrinth. They were looking up at the windows rather than down at the floor. Well, some people miss it in Amiens, too. And others walk the white tile, thinking it is a maze. Part of the confusion comes from the fact that the labyrinth is just one of many designs on the floor in Amiens, as shown in the lower photo.

.Photo of the labyrinth in Amiens Cathedral.

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.Photo of people walking the labyrinth in Amiens Cathedral.

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.Photo of the floor in Amiens Cathedral.

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I have pleasant memories of being in Amiens, sitting in an outdoor restaurant down by the river. In fact, there is a very interesting light show every evening during the summer months, in which the statues on the front of the cathedral are lighted very precisely, so that they are polychrome, as they were originally, with skin tones and eye color and clothes of many colors.

It you are at Amiens, be sure to visit one of my favorite restaurants (not along the river). When you walk out of the front (i.e. west) door of the cathedral, go down the steps and just keep going in a straight line for one block. The restaurant is on the corner. It is called L'Os a Moelle, which means "bone marrow" (a local specialty). The food is wonderful and the staff very congenial.

Amiens influenced a number of other labyrinths, most of which were direct copies. One still exists in St. Quentin, which is east of Amiens. I was there in May of 1999 and the labyrinth was uncovered except for a bulletin board that was blocking about half of the paths. So I noisily slid the bulletin board off to the side and proceeded to walk the labyrinth. As in Amiens, people looked at me with a puzzled expression, as if to say, "What is he doing?" They really don't have a clue about their own labyrinths.

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