Michael T. Davis

Professor Emeritus of Art History
French Gothic architecture of the 13th and 14th centuries; the history of modern architecture; the arts of Islam

If dozing in the dark in front of a slide show is your idea of a class in architecture, then you probably haven't studied with Michael Davis.

Take Davis’s course and you may find yourself outdoors on Skinner Green — taking measurements, working out dimensions, staking string and generally gaining firsthand experience with the genesis of a cathedral’s design. Or, back inside the classroom, you may learn how a computer-assisted design program (CAD) can help bring to light the intentions and methods of master masons whose plans have not survived.

Davis has used these same nontraditional methods in his own innovative research. Supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Davis has taken exhaustive measurements of two French Gothic structures — the church of Saint-Urbain in Troyes and the abbey of Saint-Ouen in Rouen, France. After compiling those measurements into ground plans, Davis used CAD to uncover geometric relationships, religiously significant design elements and architectural plans previously hidden to art historians.

Davis has published work on Altenberg Abbey, the Cathedral of Limoges, Saint-Urbain in Troyes and Notre-Dame, Paris. His most recent publications include articles on drawing and design of the Cathedral of Clermont as well as a 14th-century sculptural cycle at Notre-Dame. He has served as chair of the Medieval Studies Program and the Department of Art and Art History and has collaborated with Professor Margaret Switten of the French department to teach a course on the art, literature and politics of 14th-century Paris. Currently, he is writing a book on the work of Jean Deschamps, master mason of the Cathedral of Clermont. His aim: “to understand Gothic structures as human products, the results of the dynamic interaction of traditional craft training and the inventive decisions of individual masters.”

Recent Campus News

Mount Holyoke College honors retiring faculty

Ten Mount Holyoke faculty members retire

Ten esteemed Mount Holyoke College faculty members have retired. 

Photo of the exterior of Abbey Chapel

Using modern technology to explore the past

Professor Michael Davis employs contemporary tools like virtual reality goggles to let students “see” into history and reconstruct lost buildings.

Digital arts in action: Younghoo Cho ’19 took Acoustic Ecology and Sonic Art, taught by music professor Thomas Ciufo, in the new digital music lab in Pratt Hall last fall.

Arts, amplified

A speaker series from the new Digital Arts Initiative brings world-class scholars and artists to campus to discuss how arts and technology interact.

The College’s Makerspace is a central location for the campus maker culture.

MHC leaps into 21st-century maker culture

Thanks a generous grant, MHC’s new MEDIAL Project is integrating arts and technology and giving students resources to create, exhibit and perform.

Dean of Faculty Jon Western (far left) and Acting President Sonya Stephens (far right) present the Faculty Awards to (from left) Douglas Amy and Kavita Khory (politics), Peter Scotto (Russian) and Michael Davis (art history).

Four professors receive annual faculty awards

Mount Holyoke professors of art history, politics, international relations and Russian were honored for their outstanding teaching and scholarship.