Building The Labyrinth: The Rhetoric of Mazes, Labyrinths and Walls From Antiquity to Trump

A Lecture by Sarah Bond, The University of Iowa

How can we use architecture to understand emotion or belief? What can the building of a mosaic labyrinth in a house at Pompeii or within the nave of a medieval Church tell us about the attitudes of the people that built them? This talk looks at the use of walls, labyrinths, and mazes in the texts, arts, and architecture of the premodern Mediterranean as a means of understanding the construction of fear  in antiquity and as a way of tracking the shifting views of the afterlife from the high Roman empire into Late Antiquity. The inversion of the labyrinth as a metaphor within the early Christian context illustrates how architectural meaning could be revised and repackaged in surprising ways. It is also a reminder that both real and imagined structures can be redefined to fit the needs of a people, leader, or religion.