Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Mario DI SALVO, Architect, Como, ITALY (Director of the ‘Fondation Carlo Leone et Mariena Montandon’ - CH)

The thousand-year old art of Ethiopian civilization has been influenced by various factors, particularly the religious architecture, in which from the outset a marked creativity was expressed. Although in every part of the Christian world the same types of churches were developed and become widespread, the particular historical events of the Tigray led them to be interpreted in a completely original way, making them 'Ethiopian' specifically because they were grafted and constructed following the stylistic canons of the ancient reign of Aksum. That tradition, which remained largely unchanged for centuries - thanks to the survival of craftsmen who passed down the traditions and preserved the patrimony of knowledge of ancient trade guilds - slowly lost its influence only towards the end of the Middle Ages. The history of religious architecture in Ethiopia was therefore derived from the overlay of the advent of Christianity into the specific territorial ambit, with a set of formal traits identifiable in syntactic and grammatical habits that articulated the structural elements with what was inherited from the past. It may therefore be exemplary to study and to identify the typological development lines of ancient religious buildings in accordance with the success, or relative success, of the relationship between the matrix model and its elaboration that determined subsequent mutations and ramifications. From the comparison it is then possible to gather the references which, from a purely architectural point of view, allow us to discern and distinguish the different typologies: from the classical basilica, with the characteristic elevation, to the many hypostyle rooms, which only maintain the original plan with a possible reference to the civilian aksumite buildings.