The Masone labyrinth

Near Parma, Italy, from a promise made by Franco Maria Ricci to Jorge Luis Borges arises the world’s largest maze, conceived as a star-shaped bamboo forest.

Pier Carlo Bontempi e Davide Dutto con Franco Maria Ricci, Il labirinto della Masone, Fontanellato, Parma
The largest labyrinth in the world was created at Fontanellato, Parma, from an idea of the publisher, designer, art collector and bibliophile Franco Maria Ricci, and a promise he made in 1977 to the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, who had always been fascinated by the symbol of the labyrinth, also as a metaphor of the human condition.
Extending over 80,000 sq. metres of land, the maze has been designed with the architects Pier Carlo Bontempi, who completed the buildings, and Davide Dutto, who planned the geometry of the park.
Pier Carlo Bontempi e Davide Dutto con Franco Maria Ricci, Il labirinto della Masone, Fontanellato, Parma
Pier Carlo Bontempi and Davide Dutto with Franco Maria Ricci, Il labirinto della Masone, Fontanellato, Parma, Italy

There are three forms of classic labyrinth – the Cretan one with seven spirals, the Roman labyrinth with right angles and divided into quarters (four inter-communicating labyrinths), and the Christian labyrinth with 11 spirals, of the Chartres type. Ricci chose inspiration from the second one, nevertheless reworking it and introducing little traps here and there – junctions and blind alleys which there weren’t in the strictly unicursal (single-path) Roman labyrinths.

The perimeter is star-shaped, a form which appears for the first time in Filarete’s Treatise on Architecture and was subsequently adopted by Vespasiano Gonzaga in Sabbioneta and the Venetian Republic at Palmanova in Friuli. The maze project underwent a long elaboration with the architect Davide Dutto. There is also a pyramid-shaped chapel inside the maze, a commemoration of the ancient link between mazes and faith.

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