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Ariadne’s Labyrinth: Sicily’s Mythical Maze

April 1, 2023 2023-06-20 11:50

Ariadne’s Labyrinth: Sicily’s Mythical Maze

Ariadne’s Labyrinth: Sicily’s Mythical Maze

Land Art in the Nebrodi Mountains

Ariadne’s Labyrinth, Labirinto di Arianna, is a beautiful concrete spiral, inspired by the Greek myth of Theseus and Ariadne. It is part of the open air museum Fiumara d’Arte, in Castel di Lucio. A small village in the Nebrodi Mountains in the province of Messina, its history goes back as far as Norman times. Located on top of a hill not far from the town, you can see the beauty of the landscape and surrounding nature with its panoramic views. It is one of the most striking sculptures in the Fiumara d’Arte.

Although one can walk through the monument as if it were a traditional labyrinth, it represents much more than just a fun design. It is a journey towards purity, the journey we go on to find ourselves, to find our purpose in life.

The sculptor Italo Lanfredini, born in Sabbioneta, Mantua, in 1948, designed the labyrinth. In 1987 he won the international competition for artists under 40 years old alongside Antonia Di Palma. His design was selected by the judges to be the best of the 55 sketches submitted to the competition. Construction of his design took two years, and the finished monument was unveiled in June 1989.

It is a powerful symbol that looks as if it has stood on top of the hill forever. The Fiumara d’Arte Foundation website says that, “It is connected to the past, to classical culture, to birth, to the first teachings of life.” The shape of the labyrinth mirrors the ancient Cretan model: winding round in a circular shape and characterised by a single corridor that reaches the centre after a series of twists and turns. In Lanfredini’s labyrinth too, there is only one path from the entrance to the centre.

Inspired by Greek Mythology

The entrance to the labyrinth is a large pointed arch, which resembles the shape of the female reproductive organ and symbolises the womb of Mother Earth. At the centre is an olive tree, the Greek symbol of wisdom and knowledge, which represents the nucleus, the essence of life. There is just a single path to find oneself through the labyrinth, where it is impossible to get lost.

Ancient remains of a labyrinth in Knossos, Crete, that may have served as inspiration for Ariadne's Labyrinth
Ancient remains of a labyrinth in Knossos, Crete

It has been said that the labyrinth is like a big womb, a path in search of oneself in order to be reborn.

It is named after the legendary Cretan labyrinth that was designed by Daedalus and built by King Minos in the Palace of Knossos to enclose the Minotaur. The monstrous creature had a human body and a bull’s head and was the son of Pasiphae, Minos’ wife, and a divine bull. Theseus, a hero from Attica, managed to kill the Minotaur with the help of Ariadne and her now-famous thread.

The legend, one of the most popular stories of the antiquity, stimulated the imagination of many Greek artists. They didn’t just preserve the appearances of Theseus, Ariadne and the Minotaur,  but also the labyrinth, portraying it as a sort of spiral.

How to reach the Ariadne’s Labyrinth

To reach it from Palermo, take the A19 motorway to the A20 exit (direction Messina), exit at Tusa and continue along the SP174 and SP176 to Castel di Lucio. The Labyrinth of Ariadne is always open for access.

by Raffaella Lo Iacono and Will Scott

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