Experience the Labyrinth right here on campus

By Elizabeth Gray
Staff Writer

If you’ve ever wanted to visit the Chartres Cathedral in France but can’t quite come up with the funds, don’t worry, because the UWF Department of History is bringing the cathedral to you.

“Experience the Labyrinth: 2017” will be housed in the University Commons Auditorium this week, and you can see it for yourself between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Thursday.

Marie-Thérèse Champagne, an associate professor of history, is producing the experience, and the event only happens when she teaches the course “The High Middle Ages,” which isn’t every semester.

“It has evolved to be something really neat,” Champagne said. “What I am trying to do is recreate the sensory experience you would have in a gothic cathedral in Pensacola. Which is very difficult.”

UWF Professor of History Marie-Thérèse Champagne gives a lecture at the labyrinth installation in the Commons Auditorium in February 2015. Photo by Michael Spooneybarger/Studer Community Institute

A painted, canvas floor recreates the design of the labyrinth from the cathedral in France, dating from about the year 1200. You will be able to experience candlelight, incense, and this year, authentic period music.

The UWF Chamber Choir will sing Gregorian chant at four separate times during the week.

Peter Steenblik, UWF director of choral activities, said Champagne approached him about doing this nearly a year ago. “I have been looking for ways to incorporate chant in the curriculum,” Steenblik said, “so I readily accepted the invitation.”

Steenblik said there have been some challenges for the singers. “What was new to the singers was the musical notation. Chant represents the beginnings of music as a written language. The manuscripts are an embryonic form of what we are used to reading on the page.”

Steenblik also wants attendees to know that “Chant is, primarily, a form of prayer. The singers will not be performing; they will be praying.”

And even though the Gregorian Chants are a form of prayer, Champagne insists that the labyrinth isn’t just for religious purposes. It is also a tool for relaxation and meditation. It has meaning in a lot of other contexts that are not associated with religion at all. “Today you see labyrinths installed in places like counseling centers, hospitals and hospices,” Champagne said. “I want them (attendees) to use it for what speaks to them.”

There are only a few rules you’ll have to follow to have an enjoyable experience: You must remove your shoes, and respect the space.

If you want to be a part of the experience, it will be held in the UWF Commons Auditorium this week, March 27-30.

For the complete schedule visit the events page.