Labyrinth Aimed At Spurring Prayer

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

A touch of Chartres has come to Boston College with the painting of a medieval-style labyrinth on the Burns Library lawn.

The labyrinth, a 50-foot circle of concentric rings forming a single path to the center, is like those used in the Middle Ages as an aid to meditation and prayer. The circle was dedicated on Tuesday in a small ceremony that featured remarks by College of Arts and Sciences Dean J. Robert Barth, SJ, and songs led by Chaplaincy Musician-in-Residence Laetitia M. Blain. It is expected to stay in place through November.

Members of the BC chapter of the French honor society Pi Delta Phi had the idea of using Burns Lawn for a prayer circle fashioned after the labyrinths at Chartres and other Gothic cathedrals of medieval France.

"This is a beautiful meditation opportunity," said chapter president Timothy Sullivan '00, noting that 13th-century cathedral-goers considered a walk through the labyrinth a symbolic "pilgrimage to Jerusalem" in the spirit of the Crusades.

"For us at Boston College," he said, "it will be a way to leave the stress of our daily life as we walk - or dance - to the center rosette, and then, after a time of quiet, slowly walk back to the mouth of the labyrinth with renewed energy. The labyrinth is something people of all faiths can walk to find inner peace."

Using a special stencil he devised, Athletic Department Maintenance Worker Paul Gallivan painted the labyrinth on Sept. 25 with a sprayer used to mark yard lines on football fields. It consists of 12 rings enclosing a single path that meanders to a center rosette through 28 loops, totaling some 300 yards in length.

Faculty and staff walk the labyrinth after Tuesday's dedication.

Pi Delta Phi faculty advisor Prof. Rebecca Valette (Romance Languages) said interest in labyrinths has been renewed in the US since Grace Cathedral, a landmark Anglican church in San Francisco, laid out a medieval prayer circle a few years ago. Valette described her walk through the Grace Cathedral labyrinth as "a wonderful experience. It opens your heart and clears out the cobwebs of stress."

A special exhibit on the Chartres cathedral and its labyrinth is on display in O'Neill Library.

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