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Never Stand Up A Queen

Queen Christina of Sweden by Jacob Henry Elbfas
Katie Ferrar / Storyteller

Queen Christina of Sweden by Jacob Henry Elbfas

Being the guest of five consecutive popes, and a symbol of the Counter Reformation, Queen Christina is one of the few women buried in the Vatican grotto.

Villa Medici

Christina of Sweden, the famous protestant queen who officially embraced Catholicism in 1655, arrived in Rome with full honors by pope Alexander VII. Queen Christina was particularly famous for her humongous culture, her hauteur, and her odd behavior deemed immoral by many of her contemporaries.

Her stay in Rome was colored by wild stories. The most legendary one involves the cannonball she once fired at Villa Medici! Cardinal Decio Azzolino, a resident of the villa and a “very dear friend” of the Swedish queen, one day did not turn up for a meeting. Gossip of that time often accused them of having an affair. After a too long of a wait the queen, purple with rage, ran to Castel Sant’Angelo, took one of the many cannons available on its terrace, and shot at the Cardinal’s door! It seems the imprint of the cannonball is still visible.

Pope Alexander VII described Christina as "a queen without a realm, a Christian without faith, and a woman without shame". Even so, she became a leader of the theatrical and musical life and protected many Baroque artists, composers, and musicians.

If you are going to visit Villa Medici, today seat of the Academy of France, have a look at the entrance door and the pretty fountain just across the street. The cannonball where the water comes out would seem to be the implicated projectile!

About the Author

Katie Farrar is a California native with a severe case of wanderlust. After graduating with a degree in Art History and Comparative Literature, she moved to Rome as a Fulbright scholar in 2009 and devoured every book on Baroque Rome she could get her hands on. Katie began working in tourism in 2010 and hasn't looked back since. Many art historians teach in classrooms; Katie is one of the lucky few that teaches right in the beautiful streets of the Eternal City.

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