Skip to comments.Restored – but medieval maze is still a puzzle after centuries[UK]
Posted on 06/20/2007 4:47:34 AM PDT by BGHater
A maze is designed to puzzle, but whoever dreamt up the intricate earth and grass labyrinth that is Julian's Bower can be especially pleased it remains a mystery after hundreds of years. The medieval maze in Alkborough, near Scunthorpe, has been reopened to the public after a major returfing project, but experts are no closer to solving the riddle of why or when it was made.
The 44ft relic cut into the landscape has many interlocking rings, and the theories surrounding its origins are just as complex.
Some have observed how Alkborough's maze is strikingly similar to a floor design in the 13th century French cathedral of Chartres.
There, pilgrims followed the circular route, sometimes on their knees, as an act of penitence, piety or meditation, the centre of the maze being known as Jerusalem. Strong claims have been made for a similar ecclesiastical origin and purpose for Julian's Bower.
What is known for certain is that the maze was a playground for local people for centuries and once had a nearby companion, now lost to history.
In 1697, the Lincolnshire diarist and antiquarian, Abraham de la Pryme, noted: "They have at (Alkborough) two Roman games, the one called Gillian's (for Julian's) Bore, and the other Troy's Walls.
"They are nothing but great labyrinths cut into the ground with a hill cast up round about them for the spectators to sit round about to behold the sport. The two labyrinths are somewhat different in their turnings from one another."
Shakespeare mentions similar mazes in both A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest.
The name Julian's Bower may have been inspired by Julius, son of Aeneas of Troy. In legend, the walls of the ancient city of Troy were built in such a confusing way that an enemy who entered would never find a way out.
The site is designated as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. It had been closed for three months for repairs after countless feet had compacted the soil and eroded its surface.
English Heritage inspector of ancient monuments, Keith Miller, said: "Julian's Bower is a name which was given to turf mazes in several different parts of England.
"The Alkborough relic is incredibly puzzling and its survival is nothing short of miraculous. But by its very nature it is both ephemeral and vulnerable.
"Returfing has gone extremely well and the specially hard-wearing grass mix, the same used for top-flight football grounds, should wear well.
"Even so, visitors can help preserve the maze by leaving their heavy boots at home."
It is thought the maze was last returfed more than 40 years ago.
It is located on a spectacular bluff overlooking the confluence of the rivers Trent and Ouse.
North Lincolnshire Council spokesman Tim Allen said: "Julian's Bower retains its power to fascinate and intrigue.
"Thanks to the South Humber Bank initiative we have been able to work with local people to ensure this old landmark stays at the centre of the community, while attracting visitors seeking to delve into its mysterious purpose."
The origins of mazes probably go back to Neolithic times, but among the earliest recorded was the Egyptian Labyrinth, which some believed surpassed even the Pyramids. A vast palace complex, it consisted of thousands of rooms and 12 large maze-like courtyards.
The oldest-known church labyrinth is at the Basilica of Reparatus in modern-day Algeria, which dates from the fourth century. Many mazes were included in churches built in the 12th century in Italy and France.
Church mazes didn't catch on in England but turf mazes did, and their origins may date back as far as Roman times.
Many turf mazes were called "Shepherd's Race" possibly referring to curious custom shepherds once had of cutting the turf in the form of a labyrinth.
The country's most famous hedge maze was built at Hampton Court Palace, near London, in 1690.
That is amazing!
LOL, I was thinking the exact same thing. I saw saw the picture and thought, gosh that thing is sort of little after all that build up.
Ping. For your list?
Is it ADA compliant?
It does look cool.
A bulldozer would have best ended all the time wasted on this non-important remnant from the past.
I get so tired of people expecting everything from the past to be preserved forever; regardless of how meaningless.
Historical preservation is just such a nuisance, isn’t it? Raze all that old stuff and put up a parking lot for a nice modular building.
Year Zero! It's not just for the Khmer Rouge!
With this photo, it doesn’t even look like you can get “trapped” in the maze unless you traverse it on your belly.
Julian’s Bower? Sounds like a Bergholt Stuttley Johnson to me.
I had often wondered where our city's traffic engineers got the inspiration. The labyrinths provided, however, don't seem to offer any opportunities for meditation or personal reflection, other than for new heights of swearing.
Help! I can’t get out!
Well, at the risk of getting th ings thrown at me, you have to admit that WBL has a point: You (a society) has to draw the line somewhere. Everything from "the past" isn't worth keeping. There comes a time and circumstance when "that old stuff" should be razed and a parking lots or a nice modular building put up in its stead. Things like...
Nobody said anything about a parking lot did they?
My point is that everywhere you turn there is this push to preserve everything no matter how meaningless in history it was.
I would bet the response of those that built these structures would be one of amusement that future society would think so highly of some of the junk produced in their age.
“Put up a parking lot” comes from a song by Carly Simon.
On what basis do you determine what to label “junk”? Your lack of interest? That’s fine for you, but everyone doesn’t share your standard, apparently.
It’s hard to understand why the preservation of a centuries-old maze would set off your comments. Apparently, quite a percentage of the population finds value in the preservation of such—not to mention the tourist dollars associated with such historical attractions. For some locales, no tourism, no income.
its a prayer labyrinth - seen em before