Europe was ravaged by political and religious conflicts when Christina grew up. At the age of six, she witnessed the funeral of her father, Gustavus Adolphus, fallen on the battlefield in Germany as Commander of the Protestant armies in the Thirty Years War against the Catholics.
Christina was the only heir to the throne of Sweden, at that time a Great Power including Finland, Estonia, Latvia and parts of today´s Lithuania, Germany and Russia. Christina was raised as a future king, dressed, hunted and rode horses like a man. She was an intelligent and gifted student, eagerly learning history, religion, other sciences and eight languages.
Imposing her will on powerful chancellor Axel Oxenstierna and the Royal Council, the young queen signed the Westphalian Peace in 1648 which ended the terrible Thirty Years War. She founded hospitals, schools and universities in her territories and invited famous scholars and artists to her dynamic court in Stockholm.
In 1654, on top of power and fame, at the age of 27, Christina shocked her subjects and the whole of Europe by abdicating from the Swedish throne, going into exile and soon converting to Catholicism. During 18 months she travelled extensively, greeted as a Queen of Peace with festivities incl. fireworks and operas in Hamburg, Antwerp, Brussels, Innsbruck, Spoleto and other cities. Her final destination was Rome, where Pope Alexander VII welcomed her with magnificent processions.
The most prominent woman of the 17th century mainly devoted the rest of her life in Rome as an immigrant Queen without land to the arts and sciences, although she still pursued political ambitions, sometimes with controversial consequences. Christina upheld a huge correspondence, founded academies and was a patron of the arts and sciences. Bernini and Corelli dedicated immortal works to her. As the first woman ever, she received a sovereign´s burial in St. Peter´s Basilica upon her death in 1689. Since then, her influence and fascination has never faded. New books about her, both fiction and scientific, appear regularly, even movies and operas
What can citizens of modern Europe learn from this remarkable woman? A century before Diderot and Voltaire she advocated Enlightenment, tolerance, peaceful coexistence and equality. She refused to accept the traditional feminine role of the 17th century and is often considered a prototype of the modern woman. Her courage, complex life and destiny show us how cultural values in the end are stronger than armies. She transcended divisions of nations, languages and religions, embodying European identity and peaceful integration 300 years before the European Union. Christina sets an indisputable example to all citizens of Europe, specially important for the younger generations, as a symbol of culture and peace.