What is a Labyrinth?
An ancient pattern dating back nearly 4,000 years, the labyrinth can be found in cultures throughout the world. Based upon natural spirals, they share in common a single path which winds its way to the center. The labyrinth is not to be confused with a maze which consists of multiple paths that may end at a blocked passage.
With a single path, the entrance also serves as the exit, allowing each person to quietly meditate while walking toward the center and back again. There are three stages ascribed to the walk – first the releasing, allowing the mind to relax and shed the outside world. Next is the receiving, where the meditation culminates when reaching the center of the labyrinth. Finally is the returning, where the inner peace found at the center is brought back to the outside world.
The Labyrinth Design
This labyrinth is based upon the “Medieval” design, which was first developed during the ninth and tenth centuries CE. Consisting of eleven circuits, the medieval labyrinth was adopted as designs in church floors throughout Europe. It is also referred to as the “Chartres” labyrinth, named for the design on the floor of Chartres Cathedral in Paris.
This labyrinth is dedicated in memory of Jessica G. Davant, through the generosity of her mother, Diana Risien Jannetta, stepfather, Dr. Peter Jannetta, and brother, Robert M. Davant III.
Jessica Grimes Davant (1962-2006) attended The Ellis School in Pittsburgh, St. Michael’s Sussex in England through the British-American Educational Foundation, and Roanoke College in Salem, Va. She was graduated from Texas Tech University with a bachelor of arts and sciences degree in 1987, and was devoted to nonprofit organizations and the fine arts. She worked on the development staff of the Houston Symphony Orchestra and later the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, which dedicated a tree in Schenley Park in her memory. Jessica was also a volunteer with the Menil Collection and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Located on the lawn in front of Berry Hall on the University’s Shadyside Campus, the labyrinth landscape was designed by Matthew ‘Brody’ Little, a third year graduate student in Chatham’s Master of Landscape Architecture program, who won the landscaping design competition in January 2008. The labyrinth was installed by Vento Landscaping and measures 60 feet in diameter. Sited on a small rise above Woodland Road, the landscaping hides the labyrinth at eye level, allowing it to be gradually discovered by visitors as they walk the slight incline from Woodland Road to the entry path. It is believed to be the largest outdoor public labyrinth in Pittsburgh.