Recalls Sweden's Queen Convert
17, 2005 - Last week Rome paid homage to the woman who chose to
be a Catholic rather than queen.
of Queen Christina of Sweden, daughter of Lutheran King Gustavus
Adolfus II, to Roman Catholicism astounded Europe in 1654 as did
her declaration that she "couldn't live another day if she didn't
live it in Rome."
the 350th anniversary of Queen Christina's arrival in Rome, and
the Eternal City celebrated a weeklong series of concerts in honor
of the great patroness of music, art and literature, whose dedication
to culture earned her the title of the "Minerva of the North."
committee of patrons organized the event, from the Holy See to the
Italian government to the embassies of France, Spain and Sweden.
Their involvement allowed the "Roma Festival Barocco" to unite some
of the city's most prestigious venues with performances of several
unpublished scores from the Baroque era, the Age of Christina.
festival opened Nov. 6 with Mass at the Basilica of Santa Maria
in Trastevere as a moving reminder of the courageous conversion
that brought Christina to Rome. Tremendous efforts of both liturgical
scholars and music scholars made the special Mass a truly extraordinary
unknown manuscript by Boniface Graziani, an Italian composer born
in 1604, was rediscovered in the archives of Santa Maria in Trastevere.
The manuscript contains the composition for a Mass for four voices
and for the first time in the modern era, the work was sung during
the Mass celebrated by Archbishop Mauro Piacenza, the president
of the Pontifical Commission of the Cultural Goods of the Church.
of the festival Rome offered splendid concerts. In the exquisite
church of San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane, so tiny it could fit
inside one of the piers of St. Peter's, musician Rosario Cicero
played the intimate chamber music that so entertained the nobility
of Rome during the 17th century.
several composed by A.M. Bortolotti who worked at Christina's court,
were written for guitar and lute. Performed on faithful replicas
of Baroque instruments, the music called to mind the many Caravaggio
paintings representing youthful musicians.
of compositions were presented during the week demonstrating the
wide variety of music produced in Christina's times. Organ recitals,
Masses, semi-operatic dramas as well as oratorios provided a dazzling
display of musical virtuosity. Although originated by St. Philip
Neri in the 16th century, the "oratorio" fully developed under the
patronage of Roman nobility during the following century. The papal
families of the Pamphilj and the Rospigliosi, as well as Queen Christina
herself, commissioned these works to be performed in their own domestic
settings. The oratorio consists of sacred, but not liturgical, texts
put to music. They were usually divided into two acts, often with
a sermon between the two.
were on the program this week, both taken from stories of saints.
The first was titled "Santa Maria Maddalena de' Pazzi" by Giovanni
Lorenzo Lulier. It was written at the request of Cardinal Francesco
de' Medici in 1688 to celebrate the Florentine saint who had been
canonized in 1666. It was performed in the magnificent Palazzo Farnese,
the most beautiful residence in Rome, and home to Queen Christina
for several years.
oratorio, recounting the story of the conversion and penitence of
St. Pelagia, was written for Queen Christina's court in 1677 by
Alessandro Stradella. This story of a young woman, who while intelligent,
was tempted by the devil to dedicate herself to worldly pleasures,
must have had special meaning for Christina.
as in the days of old, Rome proved itself capable of arranging a
celebration worthy of queen. Amid beautiful settings, surrounded
by beguiling strains of music, the senses were delighted in order
to draw the spirit to higher purpose.
* * *
Elizabeth Lev teaches Christian art and architecture at Duquesne
University's Italian campus. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.