Labyrinths have been used by numerous cultures throughout history. The earliest forms are over four thousand years old. They are found in Greece, Ireland, England, and Northern Algeria. Other well-known examples are found in France and Italy. A popular one is found at the Chartres Cathedral which is about 80 km southwest of Paris.
This labyrinth was created to simulate a pilgrimage to the holy land. In the Middle Ages, a journey to Jerusalem was a major life goal for devoted worshipers. Yet, due to the Crusades, the trip was considered too dangerous. Consequently, the Holy Church in Rome decreed that cathedrals in Europe should serve as symbolic points of pilgrimage. As a result, labyrinths were constructed in most Gothic cathedrals throughout Europe.
These defined walking patterns which lead to a center point are symbolic of the long winding path towards salvation that a pilgrim makes. Unlike a maze, these pathways guide the follower rather than misdirect. They offer a well define path for cultivating higher realization.