The public is invited to walk the labyrinth regularly in Houghton Chapel.
The Labyrinth is a circular pattern with one path that winds its way in a circuitous fashion into the center. Distinct from a maze, which is designed to confuse the walker, this labyrinth provides a clear, highly structured path that focuses and quiets the mind and opens the heart. Walking the labyrinth has become a practice that many people embrace to reduce stress, provide reflection and replenish our energy.
Labyrinths date back four to five thousand years. In the Middle Ages, many of the pilgrimage cathedrals had labyrinths. Once the crusades made it dangerous to travel, labyrinths became a symbolic way to enact the journey to Jerusalem. The only surviving medieval labyrinth is the Medieval Eleven-Circuit labyrinth inlaid in the floor of Chartres Cathedral in France in the year 1201.
The use of labyrinths has been revived in the last 20 years, largely through the efforts of Dr. Artress, who is considered the founder of the modern labyrinth movement. Her book, Walking a Sacred Path; Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Practice is the standard introduction to the subject. A second book of Meditations is included in the Sand Labyrinth Kit and her third book The Sacred Path Companion: A Guide to Using the Labyrinth to Heal and Transformwas published in March 2006. Lauren is the Founder of Veriditas, Inc.(http://www.veriditas.net), a non-profit dedicated to the transformation of the human spirit.
Today the labyrinth is a transformational tool for reconnecting people of all faiths with their spiritual grounding.
The Labyrinth Project at Wellesley College is generously funded by Laura Becker-Lewke, Class of 1987.
In 2012, Becker-Lewke gifted the College with a large canvas labyrinth to introduce the practice to the campus. Eager to engage students in spiritual reflection through contemplative practice, she dreamed of one day building an outdoor labyrinth that might invite curious walkers on an unexpected journey.
In 2017, in partnership with Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress at Veridtas and master labyrinth builder Lars Howlett at Discover Labyrinths, ORSL sponsored a year-long series of workshops in which students designed and handcrafted an outdoor labyrinth in the Botanic Gardens.
The labyrinth design in Houghton Chapel is a canvas replica of the 11-circuit medieval, labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral in France. This pattern, once central to cathedral culture, was inlaid into the stone floor in 1201.
This outdoor labyrinth nestled beside Paramecium Pond was designed and built by students with the support and guidance of master labyrinth builder, Lars Howlett. It is a five-circuit medieval labyrinth crafted from trees recovered from Wellesley College. The centerpiece is a cross-section of an original planting to the College, more than 150 years old. All of the materials were sustainably sourced from the campus making the labyrinth a living embodiment of the College’s commitment to contemplative practice.