Construction gets the green light

Update on the Labyrinth project from Kim Ellis, CEO, Centennial Parklands 18/12/2013
The Centennial Parklands Labyrinth is an exciting and innovative project that will bring to Centennial Parklands an important spiritual element to compliment the parks important passive recreation value. Funded largely by public donation, this project is on track to deliver Australia’s first public Labyrinth in July 2014.The Labyrinth Founder, Emily Simpson, has worked tirelessly with the Centennial Parklands Foundation to raise more than $500,000 required to build this high quality, unique meditative space. The Centennial Park & Moore Park Trust has recently agreed to donate an additional $50,000 and contributed hundreds of hours of management time to ensure that the project meets the very high standards expected of Centennial Parklands.The project is well on track and this week we have signed the project’s principal contractor, Carfax Commercial Constructions. Carfax have the right experience and skills to deliver this complex project and will commence building the prototype in January 2014 adjacent to the Labyrinth site.  The project architect William Zuccon has selected Australian stone to use in the Labyrinth with Wondabyne sandstone for use in the light coloured areas and Victorian Blue stone for use in the dark areas. These stones will be supplied by Gosford Quarries and laid by Bondi Stone.  Our next newsletter will give you an up-date on the construction of the proto-type with some photographs of how the work is proceeding.

Labyrinth part of the Centennial Park Master Plan

Centennial Park has put the privately funded sandstone Labyrinth at the forefront of their plans to revitalise the parklands, the Sydney Morning Herald reports…


Things are going well with preparations for the construction of Australia’s first sandstone labyrinth and it looks like it will be completed early next year. This is a surprisingly complex thing to build – with over 1500 individual pieces of stone, every detail needs to be perfectly aligned for it to work.  The good people at Centennial Parklands are ensuring that it will be on a par with the other significant stone labyrinths in the world – the one at the Chartres Cathedral in France and the one at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. In the meantime, before construction actually begins, there will still be a labyrinth painted onto the field for you to walk.  

Funding for the Labyrinth complete!

We have now raised 100% of what’s needed! Thank you to all our generous donors. We have permission to maintain the painted labyrinth until construction begins, so you can visit anytime.  Come walk the mystery…

Grass labyrinth in Centennial Park

To find the site: Head straight down Parkes Drive, past the Cafe Pavilion, through the centre of the park and turn left into Dickens Drive.  Go past Loch Ave, on the left and you’ll find the labyrinth 100m further along Dickens Drive, in the field on the right, just past Lachlan Swamp. Here’s a park map to help you find your way.

Wisdom Keepers at the Interfaith Labyrinth Walk

We were honoured to be joined by the following Wisdom Keepers at our Interfaith Walk in December. To read their speeches, click on the box on the right.

Back Row: Rev Ben Gilmour, Paddington Uniting Church; Rabbi Jeffrey Kamins, Emanuel Synagogue; Fr Martin Davies, St James Church, King St; Venerable Boan Sunim, Korean Pori Temple, Gordon; Monsignor Tony Doherty, Church of Mary Magdalene, Rose Bay; Emily Simpson, Centennial Park Labyrinth Project

Front Row: Subhana Barzaghi Roshi, Zen BUddhist Centre; Aunty Ali Golding, Aboriginal Elder; Imam Amid Hady, Zetland Mosque

Soiree by the Labyrinth

We had a wonderful fundraising event by the labyrinth this evening attended by our local member of parliament, Malcolm Turnbull MP.


Here’s the speech:

Welcome to this beautiful, peaceful field in this beloved park of ours. For those who haven’t seen one before, this is a labyrinth.  Its looking a bit tatty now, compared to when we first painted it in September, when the grass was thick and thirsty. Now the paths are worn down with use, which is a lovely problem to have.

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Labyrinth approved by Centennial Park Trust

The Board of Trustees of Centennial Parklands have approved the construction of a sandstone meditation labyrinth and now we need your help to raise the money to build it. Based on the design of the medieval labyrinth in the Chartres Cathederal in France, the Centennial Park Labyrinth will be the first major public labyrinth in Sydney… a spiritual path in this much loved park.  The Labyrinth will be part of the Centennial Parkland’s 125th Anniversary in 2013, celebrating over a century of contributing to community health and well-being.  It will be a thing of great beauty – a significant public artwork as well as being a watering hole for the spirit for generations to come.  All donations to the Centennial Park Labyrinth project are tax-deductible. Help us create something wonderful for Sydney – a source of inspiration and contemplation for generations to come. More information…

Walking a Sacred Path

I first walked a labyrinth in May 2009 at the Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Like many who have never experienced one before, I had assumed it would be like a maze, so I was pleasantly surprised when I saw its simple beauty and actually walked it…and walked it…again and again and came back the next day to walk it some more, slower and slower. I felt reeled in by its mystery, held by the structure of its winding path and liberated by the stillness at its heart. I fell in love with the labyrinth and the whole idea of walking meditation.

I’d been in a sort of emotional cocoon for sometime after a series of sudden leavings and endings and many of my definitions of self had simply fallen away. It wasn’t until I walked the labyrinth that I felt the possibility of a light at the end of the tunnel. Somehow the rhythm of its path gave me back a spiritual pulse. I felt held by the structure of its winding path and received by the mystery at its heart.

I hadn’t felt this lit up about anything for years and read every book I could find on the subject. Realising that there were no public labyrinths in Sydney, I created a proposal for the Board of Trustees of Centennial Park to inspire them to build one. Providing public spaces for contemplation is more important now than ever before. We need a new paradigm for non-denominational sacred space and opportunities to centre, calm and remember ourselves.

On the first day of Spring last year, my proposal to build a sandstone labyrinth in Centennial Park was approved by the Centennial Parkland Trustees. We now begin the journey of gathering the $500,000 required to build it. Based on the design of the 800 year old labyrinth in the Chartres Cathedral in France, the Sydney labyrinth will be a thing of great beauty – a significant public artwork in an iconic Sydney park.

Thank you for visiting this site and if you choose to contribute by making a tax-deductible donation, you will be investing in community well-being for generations to come.

May your path be peaceful

Emily Simpson

January 2012

Labyrinth History

A labyrinth is not a maze.  A maze has several different pathways and dead ends, which are deliberately designed to frustrate, confuse and quite literally ‘amaze’…

Maze: multiple pathways

A labyrinth, on the other hand has a single pathway and there are no dead ends so you can’t get lost. A maze is an intellectual exercise and a labyrinth is a spiritual one –  a simple, contemplative pathway which quiets the mind and opens the heart.

Classical Labyrinth: single path


Medieval Labyrinth: single path

The most famous labyrinth is in the Chartres Cathedral in France.  It was built in the early 13th Century and was seen as an alternate form of pilgrimage.  During the crusades, the journey to Jerusalem was too dangerous, so people would make their way to one of six Cathedrals in France, which at that time had labyrinths in them.

                         Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth                               Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos

But the labyrinth doesn’t belong to Christianity alone. There are Neolithic petroglyphs of the Classical design labyrinth in Spain.  The Romans had labyrinth mosaic floors and there are examples of pottery from 7th century BC with labyrinth design. The Greeks used the labyrinth in their currency.

      Coin from Knossos. 3rd Century BC       Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos


                        Roman Mosaic Floor                                  Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos

There are turf labyrinths in the UK and Germany, usually found on village greens, some of which are documented to have been walked for over 500 years. There are hundreds of examples of stone labyrinths in Scandinavia built on coastal headlands.  There are also ancient examples in India and in North and South America.

Turf Labyrinth, Comberton, UK       Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos


Stone Labyrinth, Nyhamn, Sweden   Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos

Use of the Labyrinth in Europe fell out of favour sometime around the end of the 17th century, coinciding with the cultural shift in emphasis to rational, linear thinking.  It was also around this time that mazes began to be introduced into garden design.

In the last few decades there’s been a revival of interest in the labyrinth and a return to this form of ‘slow cooking’ contemplation. In the last 15 years in the United States, there have been more than 200 labyrinths built in hospitals alone, including Bethesda Naval Hospital near Washington DC, where the labyrinth is being used to help veterans with PTSD. They’re also being built in universities, public parks, schools and thousands of people are building them in their backyards.

  Granite Labyrinth, Indiana, USA      Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos


Washington, USA        Photo ©: Robert Ferre

 All images are the property of Jeff Saward / Labyrinthos