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UWF Brings A Medieval Experience To Campus

University of West Florida

You’ll be able to experience a bit of medieval life at the University of West Florida next week. 

"What I do here is try to recreate the atmosphere within a gothic cathedral with what we have here in Pensacola," said Dr. Marie Therese Champagne, a professor in the History department at UWF. She and her students will be turning the Commons Auditorium at the school into a medieval labyrinth.

"My specialty is in the high Middle Ages," says Champagne. "Which is roughly (the years) 1000 to 1300. And that's the era of the Gothic cathedrals, the ones we think of in France. Notre Dame in Paris was begun in 1163. And the labyrinth that we do here is a painted canvas replica of a stone floor design on the floor of Notre Dame de Chartres in Chartres, France." Champagne says that the students in her "Medieval Women" class put on the event.

The actual canvas is lent to the university by the Episcopal Diocese of Pensacola. Students, faculty, staff, and anyone else from the public is invited to walk the labyrinth and experience the atmosphere of a classic European cathedral.

"We dim the lights. We have candlelight. And then I play period music. There are period compositions, composed around 1200 for the gothic cathedrals, mainly chant. So we have incense burning (to) have the sensory experience, the smell, of what that cathedral would have felt like. And usually the air conditioning is very cold in there, in the auditorium, so it's perfect. These (cathedrals) are old, stone buildings so usually they are cool, even in the summer."

The floor design of the labyrinth was put in place in the Chartres cathedral around the year 1200. It winds around the canvas before ending in the center and represents the path of pilgrimages that were taken in the Middle Ages, with the center representing Jerusalem. Dr. Champagne says people take the path at their own pace.

"Take your time. Clear your mind. If you want to (you can) meditate, or if you rather you can pray, that's fine. Whatever you choose to do. Some people just come into the room and sit, we have chairs set up. And then sometimes people sit down in the center and sit for a little while. Sometimes people then turn around and walk out. It is meditative and therapeutic, but it is recreating the experience of people in the Middle Ages."

The Labyrinth installation will be the Commons Auditorium at UWF Monday and Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m., Wednesday until 3 p.m. There is no charge and everyone is welcome to share the medieval experience.

Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.