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Gorton Monastery's spiritual labyrinth

Colette Bernasconi on losing yourself to find yourself in a converted Franciscan monastery

Published on May 7th 2009.

Gorton Monastery's spiritual labyrinth

Following its de-consecration and a £6.5m renovation, the Franciscan monastery turned conference and banqueting hall is reintroducing a spiritual element to its offerings.

Once a month, on St Francis Sunday, Gorton Monastery invites people to walk through a full size (280 metre) canvas replica of Chartres Cathedral's stone labyrinth as a 'spiritual, uplifting and therapeutic' exercise.

Labyrinths date back to 2500 BC and have incarnations in many religions. The traditional Christian uses included repentance – pilgrims would complete the walk on their knees, taking up to an hour – or as a substitute pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The Gorton labyrinth is non-denominational and is mostly used for meditation.

Elaine Griffiths, chief executive of the monastery, says: “A gentle, reflective walk in a labyrinth is a wonderful way to quiet the mind, relax and allow your natural creative energy to flow. As you walk into the centre you release any stress and worries and you feel calmer and walk out again.”

The Gorton Monastery got its labyrinth through a US-based organisation called Veriditas, whose mission, according to founder Lauren Artess, is to 'pepper the planet with labyrinths'. Artress, who re-discovered labyrinths in 1991 and has since written two books on using them for spiritual healing, describes them as 'a watering hole for the soul'.

Located in the nave of the beautiful monastery, which is usually only open for booked tours, the walks are just one of several activities available at their monthly St Francis Sunday events. According to the monastery, music, art and culture workshops and other community activities will also be on offer. The Friar's Pantry café will be serving rustic home-cooked dishes, which, according to the monastery, reflect 'Franciscan monastic values'. If that turns out to be as austere as it sounds, they also serve afternoon tea with cakes, scones and pastries, and visitors are free to wander through the garden and cloisters.

Walks will be held between 12-4pm on 10 May, 14 June, 19 July, 16 August and 20 September. A suggested donation is £5 per person. For more information on Gorton Monastery or to book the venue or a tour, call 0161 223 3211. www.gortonmonastery.co.uk

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Thoroughbred MancMay 7th 2009.

So glad I spotted this. Especially as I have a copy of Mircea Eliade's 'Ordeal by Labyrinth' on order. I draw heavily on the influence of labyrinths in my work. Thank you!

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