The XVII° Century
Boxwood Labyrinth

The labyrinth of Valsanzibio was realized with six thousand boxwood plants (Buxus Sempervirens). The most part of these plants are hundred-year old (they have almost 400 years of age) and they were planted between 1664-1669 when the garden of Valsanzibio was brought up to the present form. The entire pathway of the maze, long about 1,5 kilometers, is made up by eight thousand square meters of boxwood walls trimmed annually. This pruning work takes one thousand and five hundred hours of work, with the help of manual and mechanical cutters (but, in any case, always guided by hand!), ladders, levels and plumbed lines. Furthermore, eight hundred trips of special wheelbarrows, filled up with cut twigs and pushed on the average for about six hundred meters until the end of the narrow corridors, are needed. Between back and forward these trips cover about 1.000 km and take almost three hundred hours to which you need to add another equivalent amount of time for loading, tiding up and unloading. Then, there is plant replacement, fertilizing, dunging, hoeing all done by hand, pesticides treatments and weed clearing…in other words, the annual working hours of a professional gardener are not enough! Also for this reason the large historic labyrinth, that has resisted for about two or three hundred years during different epochs and turmoil, had to succumb to the economic metamorphosis of the twentieth century.

The maze of Valsanzibio, like most of the plants’ labyrinths of the five hundred and six hundred, besides the cheerful and playful role, has a mystic nature in line with the monuments of the Renaissance and Barocco, in which often the symbology was at the base of their planning. In fact, this prestigious labyrinth, as the overall garden of Valsanzibio, was designed by the top Vatican architect and fountain expert Luigi Bernini following the directions of Saint Gregorio Barbarigo (at that time Cardinal) and it represents an important stage in the salvation journey wanted by the Saint and started at the Diane’s Doorway or Pavilion, monumental gateway to the garden, and symbolize the complex voyage of the human perfectibility. In fact, at the labyrinth quarter you arrive still full of sins, anguish and confusion of your mortal role. Disoriented by the high boxwood walls, you proceed in the nagging doubt given by thirteen trivium and quadrivium (9 & 4) cross-roads. The right path to arrive to the final high destination, and, finally, have a clear view on your own life, is never the apparently shorter one. Every promising shortcut considerably lengthen the walk or ends up in one of the 6 dead roads, the first 6 capital sins (greed, lust or lewdness, avarice, sloth or indolence, anger, envy), or in an endless loop that represents the 7th and most insidious capital sins, the haughtiness or arrogance. All these errors impose the sad return on your steps and the repentances on your committed sins. Whomever mends his ways and finds again the right path, meets new dilemmas and has to avoid and correct new errors easily repeatable. Only he who rejects the perdition and with faith and hope asks and obtains help from above arrives and easily rises to his destination. In fact, toward the end of this road trip to salvation, cleaned and purified from your own bad habits and sins, you arrive at the middle of the labyrinth on a small raised up tower and, from this dominant position, all the trivium and quadrivium cross-roads overcome reveal the allegorical essence of temptation, bad habits or virtues and, above all, beyond the obscure labyrinth, reveal the bright reality that is the objective and price of the overall undertake…from the top of the tower you finally have a clear vision of our mortal role…now, always in an allegorical sense, with this new revelation and regained purification you can move on to another quarter of the garden, to the Hermit’s Grotto, to meditate on what you have just achieved and discovered in the maze’s saunter.