As Saint Thomas was planning a courtyard remodel in 2001, we found that we wanted to build a labyrinth. It would need to be attractive, useful in worship, and inviting to those who come to campus to meditate or seek nourishment in their spiritual journeys.
A labyrinth is a path that winds in unexpected ways into a central circle. We selected a processional labyrinth, with a separate entrance and exit, enabling one to walk in and depart without interrupting another’s journey. Though our design is simpler than renown ones at Chartres Cathedral, France and Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, it is inspired by an ancient “Cretan” labyrinth that dates back at least 3500 years. The colors chosen represent creation and earth, and symbolize abundance.
Take a closer look at the entrance tiles. They reveal an engraving “You will show me the path of life: in your presence there is fullness of joy.” In the words of Psalm 16, we are called to reflect on God’s abiding presence. The five loaves and two fishes near the center symbolize Jesus’ ability to nourish thousands of people from seemingly meager resources, a reference to the Gospel story in Matthew 14:13-21. It serves as a reminder of God’s abundance and provision.
The labyrinth was laid out in the Courtyard with its center line connecting Cowans Hall on the west side with the center of the Sanctuary on the east side, thereby aligning three places of nourishment. The 20-inch wide green path is bordered by aggregate, enabling people to walk with their eyes closed or barefoot. The labyrinth’s path first draws us into its center, then leads us back to outward reality at its end. Its public placement serves as an invitation to anyone seeking reflection, or desiring the exercise of walking with their mind at rest.
The labyrinth was funded in memory of Henry M. Cordes, Ph.D., professor of German literature at the College of San Mateo.