Labyrinth History

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that represents a journey to our own spiritual centre.

They have been used in many different religious and spiritual ways by many peoples, amongst being used as solar and lunar calendars, Labyrinths have long been used for purposes of prayer, meditation, and reflection.

The labyrinth dates back to prehistoric time, and is perceived as a sacred space.

It has been an integral part of many cultures, such as Celtic, Mayan, Greek, Cretan, and Native American.

The labyrinth predates Christianity by 3500 years, from medieval times the labyrinth have been in Christian churches and spiritual places.

Some of the simplest and most ancient labyrinth patterns have been found in the Mediterranean and Celtic lands.

The oldest existing Christian labyrinth is probably the one in the fourth-century basilica of Reparatus, Orleansville, Algeria.

Christian labyrinth designs are modelled on pre existing labyrinths created by earlier cultures.

The new Cathedral labyrinth patterns are all laid out according to the same basic pattern twelve rings that enclose a meandering path, which slowly leads to a centre rosette.

The development of this high medieval Christian seven circuit labyrinth was a breakthrough in design.

Its path of seven circles was cruciform (shaped like a Cross) and therefore incorporating the Christian symbol.

Use of these labyrinths flourished in Europe throughout the eleventh and twelfth centuries and beyond.

These are commonly referred to as "Classical" or "Cretan" labyrinths.


   Chartres or Medieval Design          Cretan or Classical Design   







Prehistoric Labyrinths are believed to have been traps for malevolent spirits or as defined paths for ritual dances.

During the time of the Crusades, Labyrinths were built to provide an alternative, as not everyone could make the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. To walk a labyrinth was symbolic of the journey. By walking the path, it was thought that you could you ascend towards salvation or enlightenment.

The centre of the labyrinth represented the Holy City of Jerusalem and thus became the substituted goal of the journey, for pilgrims.

The labyrinth also served as a metaphor of a “hard path to God”. The entrance of the labyrinth symbolised birth, the centre represented God. 

Over time, the religious significance of labyrinths faded and they were used primarily for entertainment, although recently their spiritual aspect has seen a resurgence.

The best-known example of a labyrinth is embedded in the stone pavement of Chartres Cathedral near Paris.

Today, labyrinths are still being used throughout the world as meditative and healing tools.

The The History of our Frederic & Margaret Wallis Labyrinth

Frederic Wallis.The labyrinth was originally constructed and opened in 1999 in the grounds of Frederic Wallis House, a nearby retreat and conference centre located at 12 Military Road, Boulcott, Frederic Wallis House was centred around a large, two-storied house built in 1927, and bought by Margaret Wallis as an ecumenical retreat and conference centre in 1937. She named it after her late husband Frederic Wallis, the third Anglican Bishop of Wellington (1895-1911).


Frederic Wallis House, 12 Military Road, Boulcott, Lower Hutt.The centre grew to include a chapel and additional buildings for staff and guests, and could accommodate up to 32 people overnight. The centre was located within two acres of beautiful gardens, including heritage trees which remain protected now. Frederic Wallis House was used by local community organisations, many Church groups, and businesses for conference and training.


The Hutt Valley District Health Board was also a regular user of the venue for meetings and social functions, and the House provided a special place for out-of-towners to stay overnight when visiting friends or relations in hospital.


When it came time to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the House in 1997, the residential community and management committee associated with the House, wanted to mark it with something permanent, functional, and which involved the whole community in its creation. Following a chance encounter with the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco and experiences with a portable labyrinth in New Zealand by community members, the decision was made to build a labyrinth, modelled on the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France. It was to be slightly smaller in size:

  • The labyrinth contains over 22,000 tile pieces in 23 colours.Diameter 12.5 metres
  • Circumference 39.26 metres
  • Total area 122.71 square metres


A New Zealand flavour was given to the design with the use of colourful tiles and native wood. The central feature was a 6-petalled flower design, made of macrocarpa wood.


The labyrinth was built over two years using volunteer and professional labour and contains over 22,000 tile pieces in 23 colours. About 800 volunteer hours went into the design, development and building of the Labyrinth.


The mosaic tiles were also representative of the colours of the surrounding plants. The yellow tiles reflect the native kowhai tree, the symbol of Frederic Wallis House.


Once completed the Labyrinth was dedicated and blessed on the 4th of September 1999.


A property developer purchased the Frederic Wallis House and gardens in 2006/07.


As the garden and Labyrinth had always been accessible and used by the community, the suggestion to save the Labyrinth was made.


The proposal was to cut the Labyrinth into slices, transport them to their new location within the grounds of Hutt Valley District Health Board, there to be reassembled.


The Hutt City Council approved relocation plans for the Labyrinth in September 2007, and an appeal began for donations towards the cost of relocation.


The Labyrinth itself was cut into eight pieces like a pizza.

A substantial donation of $40,000 was made by the Frederic Wallis House Trust to start the appeal. Additional funds came from publicity generated in the Hutt News, and approaches to local churches, service clubs, community trusts, former Friends of the House, and supporters of the Labyrinth. In all, a total of $50,000 was raised, to cover the cost of the move, restoration and beautification work to the Labyrinth surrounds.



Before the labyrinth was moved to the Hutt Hospital site, a ceremony was held at its former location. This was to give thanks to God for the labyrinth and all that it had meant over the eight years in its original location, and to pray for a safe move.


The new site at the Hospital was also blessed, and stones and other symbols brought over to be incorporated into the relocated labyrinth and surroundings . It is intended to retain the kowhai symbol of the house, with plantings of kowhai around the labyrinth in its new location.


During October and November of 2007 the Hospital site was built up and drained. The Labyrinth itself was cut into eight pieces like a pizza, lifted, and brought over for relaying and rejoining.