Spring 2021: Sheila Biddle Ford Foundation Fellow
Mikael Muehlbauer is a specialist in the architecture of Medieval Ethiopia and Egypt. He earned his PhD in Art History and Archaeology from Columbia University in 2020. His dissertation entitled: “'Bastions of the Cross:' Medieval Rock Cut Cruciform Churches of Tigray, Ethiopia," is the first monographic study of centralized-plan churches in northern Ethiopia, informed by extensive field research and site documentation there. Mikael Muehlbauer's research has been supported by grants and fellowships from Dumbarton Oaks, the American Research Center in Egypt, the Historians of Islamic Art Association, the Society of the Architectural Historians, the Smithsonian Institution and the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research. He has published articles in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, West 86th and Aethiopica.
Prestige Architecture in Early Medieval Ethiopia
Prestige Architecture in Early Medieval Ethiopia is a comparative study of the only three centralized plan/cruciform churches in Ethiopia dating to the medieval period. Locating these buildings in the mid-11th century, this project reconstructs the patronage of an Ethiopian rump state or chieftaincy, based in eastern Tigray, which was engaged in close contact with Fatimid Egypt. The unique plan of these churches was meant to evoke, in a localized fashion, architectural elements of late antique prestige architecture in Egypt and Byzantium. The churches however, exhibit experimental elements such as barrel vaulting and modular spatial hierarchy, elements not found in Ethiopia prior to their construction. The project suggests that in reinventing prestigious architecture from late antiquity, replete with novel architectonics, early medieval Ethiopia was placing itself in dialogue with both its own late antique past, but also the ecumenism of the Eastern Roman Empire and most importantly their contemporary benefactor and ally: Fatimid Egypt