Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Spanish Mazes

Mazes have provided entertainment, acted as objects of contemplation and even taken on a religious symbolism over the centuries. Spain has a trio which are worth a visit

One of the best mazes to be found in Spain - and one of its most complex and beautiful - is located in Barcelona's Parc del Laberint d'Horta (c/Germans Desvalls near Passeig Vall d'Hebron). A bit off the beaten track, the remains of this 18th-century mansion and its labyrinth are but well worth a visit. The estate gardens were designed largely by the Marquis Desvalls and laid out in 1791, while the maze - a collaboration between Italian architect Domenico Bagutti and French gardener Delvalet - was added later.

Intended in part as a venue in which to hold soirées, the maze has a playful, romantic appeal. "It clearly reflects amorous games, with Eros the god of love at the centre," says the garden's press officer Montse Rivero. The maze includes a stream, waterfall and grotto as well as several neoclassical statues, creating a perfect place to spend a romantic afternoon.

Classical mythology also played an important part in the construction of the maze in the gardens of Seville's 17th-century Alcázar palace. This originally featured figures of Apollo and other Greek gods, but today little exists of the original design. A new labyrinth was built nearby in 1914 during the reign of Alfonso XIII. This has only one entrance and exit and takes around 10 minutes to explore from one end to the other. Some remnants of the older maze, including the original pond, hill and grotto, remain in the Jardín de Alfonso XIII, however.

The third in the trio, nestles in the woods just behind the Palacio Real de La Granja de San Ildefonso, 10 kilometres south of Segovia. Built in 1721, this example is one of the largest in Europe and was sympathetically reconstructed between 1984 and 1993 to restore it to as close to the original pattern as possible. Although little is known about the significance of this hedge art, the result is a beautiful and tranquil space.

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