The Labyrinth at Harvard Divinity School

The Labyrinth at Harvard Divinity School

If you have not already had the opportunity to visit the labyrinth in the parking lot behind Andover Hall, take a few moments to do so. Whether you choose to walk the labyrinth or simply stop on the steps of Andover Hall to gaze down on it, you will be glad you were there.

Here, in Associate Director for Ministry Studies and Acting Chaplain Kerry Maloney's words, is how the labyrinth came to be:

"After we had my canvas labyrinth here four times in January for January@HDS, Laura Lamp [ministry studies staff assistant] had a dream that there was a labyrinth outside Andover Hall. She mentioned this to me and to Stephanie Paulsell [professor in ministry], and we said, 'Why not?' So I asked Tim Cross [administrative dean], who supported this proposal enthusiastically. He called the Parking Office, and John Nolan also kindly offered his support. We had thought we would request that they donate the paint, but instead, they offered the labor too. So I sent them the design and dimensions, and John Nolan, Jim Sarafin, and George Yeomelakis in the Parking Office found a subcontractor to do the job. And voila! A labyrinth miracle!"

Walking a Labyrinth

The practice of taking a walk for a sacred purpose is a universal human activity that attains particular form and expression in many religious traditions. From pilgrimages to Mecca and Jerusalem to meandering hikes through the forests, spiritual seekers everywhere know the allure and power of walking a sacred path. The labyrinth is a spiritual tool that invites each of us—on foot or in wheelchairs, accompanied or alone—to turn our walking and our wandering into pilgrimage. Labyrinths were common in the Middle Ages, and walking them was part of popular religious culture. The Harvard Divinity School labyrinth is based on a thirteenth-century ce pattern found in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is unicursal, with a single path to the center and out again, preventing the possibility that the walker will ever be lost. Come, take a walk . . . for peace.

Considerations for Walking the Labyrinth

  • The labyrinth provides an opportunity for meditation and contemplation. All are invited to traverse its circuitous path mindfully. 

  • The path through the labyrinth constitutes the longest possible way to arrive at the center. It is important not to rush, but to proceed at a measured pace.

  • Pass others, or allow others to pass you, simply by moving aside.