While the use of labyrinths dates back thousands of years, the current revival of interest in them spans barely two decades. There are only a few companies in the world that specialize exclusively in the making of labyrinths—a group that includes my own firm. Much of our work in creating labyrinths involves drawing by hand and using simple compasses and straight edges—a method no different from that used by medieval masons or ancient Mediterranean craftsmen. However, we score concrete using self-designed diamond-bladed electric tools that would astound our historic counterparts. Hence, our work is both old and new.

Staff at St. Luke's Hospital, St. Louis, walking the labyrinth. When not in use, it is folded and stored

Labyrinth for Wings Cancer Foundation at West Clinic in Memphis

Robert Ferré, president of Labyrinth Enterprises, hand painting the veins on each stenciled ivy leaf—3,000, altogether—of a canvas labyrinth

Labyrinths offer a practical way to access a holistic approach to healing and well-being on all levels—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Please note that, unlike a maze, in which people get lost in a jumble of dead ends and false passages, a labyrinth has a single circuitous path that the walker follows unerringly to the center and then retraces to exit (figure 1).

Labyrinths are used primarily for walking meditation, stress reduction, and “centering.” They offer a place of respite and renewal for patients, staff, and family members. During our eight years in business, we have made some 800 labyrinths, mostly for churches, retreat centers, and hospitals. Hospitals and healthcare facilities with labyrinths now number more than 80.

In creating labyrinths, our consulting and design services utilize ancient principles of sacred geometry combined with traditional and contemporary labyrinth designs (figure 2). Although we work in many media, we prefer two: canvas and concrete. Canvas labyrinths are portable, are used indoors, and are movable from place to place or can be stored when not in use (figure 3). Concrete labyrinths are permanent installations, generally outdoors, and open to the public 24 hours a day.

For wheelchair accessibility, a durable, flat, nonskid surface is best. For healthcare facilities, we find that brick pavers are too irregular, terrazzo too slippery, and stone too uneven. A standard broom finish on colored concrete offers the best base; a labyrinth can be installed upon it in a number of ways. Often it is painted with acrylic resin or sandblasted and stained. However, the best result comes from a technique (proprietary) in which we score the pattern into the concrete and then color it with a special polymer concrete mix. The end result is all concrete, attractive, low-maintenance, durable, long-lasting, and affordable.

We look forward to the day when labyrinths will be standard features in all healthcare facilities. HD

Robert Ferré is President, Labyrinth Enterprises, St. Louis.