Inside the Labyrinth: Assembly of Ladies and Chartres Cathedral



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This thesis explores the possible meanings and functions of medieval labyrinths and mazes in architecture and literature. Information on labyrinths, including historical and oral traditions, as well as descriptions in narrative texts, are considered. In this project, I examine medieval attitudes toward labyrinths and how those attitudes influence function in the setting of the hedge-maze in the anonymous fifteenth-century poem, Assembly of Ladies, and the labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral in France. Ultimately, I argue that labyrinths, whether literary or physical, are more than merely diversions or entertainment, but sacred sites of ritual performance. The rich history of the labyrinth lends authority to the ecclesiastic rituals at Chartres and, in turn, gives narrative authority to the AL narrator.



Medieval poetry, Labyrinth, Dream vision, Courtly love, Chartres Cathedral, Church labyrinths, Hedge mazes, Spiritual journey, Religious ritual.