Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Walking the Chartres Labyrinth

 This past Friday, March 11th, I fulfilled one of my life dreams by walking the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, France.  Even though I have my own labyrinth I have always wanted to walk the original labyrinth in Chartres which was built in 1200 and has been walked by thousands of pilgrims over the years.  On my first visit to Chartres  in 2002 I was very disappointed to find that the labyrinth was covered with chairs and could not be walked.  One can never be sure that the labyrinth will be open for walking, but my research had indicated that the labyrinth would be open on Fridays from Lent until September.  Lent started on the 9th March and so the day I walked was the first day this year that the labyrinth was open to the public.  Perfect timing!

At times the labyrinth was full of people, and at times it was completely empty.  I decided to take my shoes off and walk in my socks as I love walking barefoot on my labyrinth.  I did this for my first walk, but stopped walking before I reached the center as a large noisy group of schoolchildren arrived and started rushing through the labyrinth.  I almost wanted to stop them and explain to them that they would get more out of their walk if they slowed down a little, but I kept quiet! It was probably a good thing in retrospect as the floor was really cold and my socks got very dirty.  Needless to say on my second walk I kept my shoes on.

The instructions in the Cathedral on how to walk the labyrinth say:

Walk the path with your whole being.

This really touched me as it is how I believe we should live our lives: with our whole being.  Later, when I walked there were only a few people on the labyrinth, but I ended the walk alone on the labyrinth.  I had wanted the labyrinth all to myself (that is how I am used to walking it), but it felt right that I was walking with others for that is what makes the journey of life meaningful.  And when I completed my walk I noticed that I was the last one out of the labyrinth, although I hadn't been the first one in, and that felt just right too.

We were also able to take a tour of the Cathedral with Malcolm Miller.   Mr. Miller is an historian who has been studying Chartres Cathedral and leading tours there for the past 53 years.  He moved to Chartres when he was 24 (he is now 77) and says he is still learning about the cathedral.  I so admire people who can take their passion and create a living from doing what they love.  Everyone should be able to do this.

The Cathedral is being renovated at present and so there is scaffolding on the outside and at the front of the Cathedral.  The renovations will take a couple of years, but will make a huge difference.

The Cathedral is truly beautiful and one can spend a whole day there looking at the windows and the statues, both inside and outside.

Amy and I ended the afternoon at La Chocolaterie where I had hot chocolate and a chocolate crepe (you can't have too much chocolate), and Amy had cafe (French coffee which is like expresso) and a raspberry crepe.

Perfect end to a perfect day.


Joanne Huffman said...

How wonderful to be able to walk the premier labyrinth! And how nice that you got to do it more than once. I imagine you got a lot more out of it than the schoolchildren did.

Unknown said...

If I hadn't discovered your blog just days before my recent trip to France, I would have arrived at Chartres on a day when the labyrinth was covered with chairs. However, armed with your information, I changed my trip itinerary, arrived in Chartres on Friday, April 1, 2011, and walked the labyrinth. It was an inspiring experience and I thank you so much for telling your story.

Catherine Anderson said...

Ann, I'm so delighted that my information was helpful and most especially that you got to walk the "mother" labyrinth.

Kamelia said...

I visited Chartres and was devestated to find the labyrinth covered with chairs...I had travelled from Ireland and will not return there again for some time to come. WHY, is my question, why is the labyrinth covered in the first place...I can make no sense of that and wish that those in administeration at chartes could understand the distress such a policy causes! To be able to walk the chatres labrrinth with all ones being should surely not be a random thing depending on the day of the week...I was very sad and am sure that there are thousands like me every year....why is this policy persued... if you have any insight into this I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your beautiful blog...I enjoyed reading very much of your experience. with regards, amelia

Catherine Anderson said...

Amelia, I wish I knew the reason for this. The Church authorities make these decisions. I hope you will be able to visit again when the labyrinth is open for walking.