Julian’s Bower

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Julian’s Bower is a turf maze found in Alkborough in North Lincolnshire. Unusually there is a carving of the maze in the stone floor of the porch of the nearby church. (There is also a copy on the East window of the church, and on a gravestone in the nearby cemetery).

As the photo shows, the view from the maze is stunning, and on a fine day reveals the countryside for many miles around. But why a maze, and what purpose did they serve?

The idea of the maze goes back as far as the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. Theseus, son of King Aegeus of Athens. He used a ball of wool given to him by Ariadne to mark his way through the labyrinth of the Minotaur in Crete, where he slayed the monster and retraced his steps with the aid of the thread and so to safety.

Perhaps the best theory is that this maze was carved by a small cell of monks who lived in the area until the 13th century, and that it represents the path through life to heaven. This would fit in with the carving in the porch of the church.

It is also thought that mazes were also used for penitential purposes, so sinners would be made to trace the path upon their hands and knees. Yet another theory is that mazes were a way to confound the Devil, who could only travel in straight lines.

Turf mazes are all unicursal, that is, they have no choices or branches, and there are a number still to be found across England. The dates for their creation are all guesses, since because they are turf, they have to be renewed frequently, or they disappear, as many presumably have.

 

 

 

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