St. Peter's Labyrinth at the Grotto of Lourdes
This labyrinth is a gift from the congregation of St. Peter's United Church to the people of Sudbury, Ontario on the occasion of St. Peter's 50th Anniversary. It is based on the labyrinth in the floor of the cathedral in Chartres, France.
The St. Peter's faith community is pleased to make this contribution to the renewal of the Grotto of Lourdes Shrine on its 100th Anniversary.
The labyrinth and similar spiritual forms are very ancient spiritual symbols. In some form, the labyrinth has appeared in almost every culture. Though the meanings vary, there is always the core idea that the labyrinth is a path you can trust. Here are some of the meanings that have been given to the labyrinth within different cultures.
Life after death. The earliest labyrinths were carved on grave sites and probably represented the journey of the soul after death.
The victory of the higher self over animal instincts. As Theseus defeated the Minotaur, the rational, humane self defeated our animal appetites with the rise of civilization on Crete.
Fertility. English turf labyrinths celebrated the regularity of seasonal change and the fertility of the earth.
Travel. Scandinavian sailors walked rock labyrinths on the shore to assure a safe voyage.
Safety. For the North American Pima tribe the labyrinth represented a safe place where no evil could come.
Pilgrimage. Medieval cathedral labyrinths were often called "the road to Jerusalem" and were a substitute for people who were unable to go on pilgrimage. Sometimes the centre of the labyrinth was called "ciel" or "heaven".
© Gailand MacQueen 2007
Building the Labyrinth
Over a three weekend period, from June 8 to June 23, 2007, a group of 50 St. Peter's volunteers built a wonderful Chartres-style labyrinth on the top of the Grotto of Lourdes site in downtown Sudbury. Inspired by Gailand MacQueen's interest and presentations on labyrinth spirituality, our congregation decided to present a labyrinth to the City of Sudbury and the Grotto interfaith site, as part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations last year.
During the Anniversary year, close to $3,000 was raised to cover the costs. Site preparation issues did not allow this construction in the fall of 2006, so the spring of 2007 was chosen for the project. On the first weekend (Friday night, Saturday morning and afternoon), we moved tons of material to level the 60 foot diameter site, then added 20 tons of crusher dust to form a base for the paving blocks which mark the labyrinth paths. The second week marked the installation of landscape cloth and the centre paths - using combinations of rectangular, wedge and circular blocks - and filling the path with more crushed rose quartz sand. On the third weekend, the remaining 2/3 of the labyrinth was completed by Saturday afternoon, in a huge effort by 24 workers, and we walked the new labyrinth with Gailand and Joyce MacQueen just before they left for their summer posting in Bermuda.
In September 2007, 120 lunation markings were added around the labyrinth.
Later, a sign indicating the labyrinth as a gift from St. Peter's and a weatherproof box with explanatory pamphlets were installed.
Many have walked the labyrinth at several special Grotto events or at other times through the summer.
On Sunday, September 30, 2007, a service of dedication for the labyrinth was held at the Sudbury Grotto interfaith site. The very meaningful ceremony, prepared by Gailand MacQueen and Dawn Vaneyk, was attended by 70 members of the St. Peter's and other faith communities, including the Friends of the Grotto. Many attendees walked the labyrinth at the conclusion of the service.