Denison’s newest structure is also one of the oldest architectural forms in the world—the labyrinth. From ancient Greek mythology to medieval European cathedrals to Native American symbology, the labyrinth has been a powerful metaphor for personal spiritual journeys.
This summer, Mark Orten, university chaplain and director of religious and spiritual life, brought one to Denison as a way of fostering peace on campus. Walkers are able to choose a path on the labyrinth, a tool traditionally used for meditation, and follow it to the center and back out again. “Everyone has a different experience,” says Orten, “and though no two journeys are exactly the same, there is no wrong way to walk.”
To create the structure, Orten brought in Robert Ferré ’66, president of Labyrinth Enterprises in St. Louis, to oversee the work. Two volunteer master builders also came to observe and discuss Ferré’s methods. It turns out that building a labyrinth is a lot more complicated than you might think. The very idea of a labyrinth—and its construction—covers many disciplines, from geometry, physics, and chemistry, to architecture and theology.
After seven days, the 42-foot-wide concrete structure, located on the lower campus in a semi-secluded spot near the main drag, opened for business. And even though Denisonians are chatting and walking up the sidewalk only a few feet away, it’s a peaceful little place for reflection.
“The labyrinth is here to take on its own life in our community,” says Orten. “There is no prerequisite to participate, other than to walk it. No reservations required.”