Professor Emerita Virginia Jansen, History of Art and Visual Culture

"The Templar Code: The New Choir of the Templars' Church in London",
Nov 19, 2009, Cowell Provost House, 11:30am

Virginia Jansen

Abstract: Like The Da Vinci Code, the search for an archetype, in this case for the unusual thirteenth-century hall structure of the London Templars' choir, traverses a vast terrain. The Templars were a widespread order of military knights, like the Hospitalers, founded to protect pilgrims traveling to the Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. Their provincial headquarters in London was famous for hospitality, banking, and burials of not only renown knights, but also of that illustrious patron of the arts, King Henry III and his queen (even if the king was eventually interred in WestminsterAbbey, the rebuilding of which he financed). Were the designers of this choir — whoever they were — looking at the architecture associated with the government of Henry III at such sites as Salisbury, Winchester, Lambeth, and Canterbury, or with their comrades the Hospitalers, or, like the earlier round church's imitation of the Holy Sepulcher, with holy sites in Jerusalem? Why might any of these have been significant to them? Professor Emerita of History of Art and Visual Culture Virginia Jansen will attempt to crack the Templar architectural code, as she discusses this church praised by Nikolaus Pevsner with the words, "It is . . .  one of the most perfectly and classically proportioned buildings of the C13 [thirteenth century] in England, airy, yet sturdy, generous in all its spacing."

Bio: Educated at Smith College (A.B.,s 1964) and Berkeley (M.A., Ph. D. 1975) as well as a year each at Hamburg University and the Free University of Berlin, Virginia Jansen was appointed Assistant Professor of Art History at UCSC in 1975, tenured in 1983, and promoted to full professor in 1993. She retired in 2006. She served as chair of the department from 1983-1989 and 1995-1996. From 1985 until retirement, she served on campus planning committees, including several on architect selection committees for new campus buildings. Her teaching ranged across her general specialization in medieval art, especially medieval architecture, but also included courses in ancient art, campus architecture (an outgrowth of medieval monastic architecture), and a lower-division course, Introduction to Architecture (viewed globally), which generated many individual majors in architecture that she chaired.

     Originally her research focused on English Gothic architecture of the thirteenth century, but later she expanded toward a pan-European perspective and also began a focus on German Gothic architecture. In addition to church architecture, she has researched late antique, medieval, and early modern urban and vernacular buildings such as dormitories; Hanseatic trading centers; and cellars across Europe. Beyond conference papers, her scholarship includes over twenty articles and many reviews for leading scholarly journals and publications in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Belgium. As part of her research oeuvre, her photographs have been published in other authors' books and articles. In retirement, she is slowly trying to finish a book, Reform, Kingship, and Building: Ideologies in Architecture from Salisbury Cathedral to Westminster Abbey, c. 1216-1250, and in between, while publishing related articles on the topic, working on another currently titled, Medieval Urban and Commercial Architecture. The books emphasize political, economic, social, and cultural themes affecting architectural form.

     Her topic today, The Templar Code: The New Choir of the Templars' Church in London, is drawn from a chapter of her book, Reform, Kingship, and Building: Ideologies in Architecture from Salisbury Cathedral to Westminster Abbey, c. 1216-1250.