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.
You could jog your whole three miles in an itty bitty space. Japan should look into this.
That’s one suggestion as the article mentioned. But why would it be called a game watched by spectators in the late 17th century if that was the only possibility.
Er, I think you mean Joni Mitchell.
You’re right. I meant to put an “(I think)” in there.
Here in Knoxville TN, the city government has recently declared the “5th Avenue Motel” to be an historical site. LOL
The building has been a flop house, homeless shelter, prostitution destination and crack house for most of its life. Other than overdoses, drug dealing and murders, I’m pretty sure nothing of historical note has ever happened there. Mostly it’s known as a place you don’t want your car to break down while passing by.
The motel is currently being restored at taxpayer expense to its “former glory” so that it can then be turned into yet another downtime homeless shelter. LOL
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“not much way to figure out how such sites were originally used”
My thought is that it was used a lot like we do with the cornfield mazes. Entertainment
That’s not a real maze, it doesn’t have any dead ends! It’s just a windy twisty path through four quadrants of a circle.
Kind of a let down.
:’) Cheaper than cable.
Dunno. Loads of people, who never otherwise would, call upon God in traffic...
great idea!! then we would have more room to put up an amusement park, or a breeder reactor or a strip mall!!
Yup. The idea was the devil/evil spirits would get lost on the turns, because the Debble could only travel in straight lines.
These days we expect Christians to walk the straight and narrow...
I had heard that if you keep turning to your right, you can make it through a maze.
The radio bosses also banned “Morris Dance” music from the airwaves in the 1940s and 1950s because it was so maddenly repetitive and over used. My mother can attest to the “maddening” part of it because I used to practice it on the piano!
How about just less clutter in the world. Like I said earlier I bet the builders of this junk, if told future generations would spend time & money preserving this stuff, would say why bother.
A more appropriate song, then, would be “The Circle Game”. ;’)