On the presence of current politics in the Calderonian auto sacramental: Christina, queen of Sweden, reads Saint Augustine in La protestación de la fe by Pedro Calderón de la Barca
In 1656, a few days before the feast of Corpus Christi, Philip IV ordered the cancellation of a performance of Calderón’s auto sacramental La protestación de la fe, which referred to the conversion of Christina, Queen of Sweden to Catholicism. Spanish diplomats played a key role in the events that the whole Europe followed with great attention: from the abdication of Christina, Queen of Sweden in 1654, to her ceremonial entry into Rome towards the end of 1655. It was expected that the Queen would visit Spain and be a mediator in the matters concerning the war with France which had been going on for over twenty years. All this was meticulously reported by, among others, Jerónimo de Barrionuevo, the author of Avisos (Reports) from the years 1654–1658. However, after arriving in Rome, Christina turned away from the Spanish diplomats and openly started showing her interest in France. Detailed reports on the situation in Rome started arriving in Madrid in May, and this should explain the intervention of the king, who ordered the “auto about the Queen of Sweden” to be cancelled (Barrionuevo, II, p. 423). The text of the play survived and its premiere took place almost one hundred years later, in 1752. It is a unique composition in which current events, known from oral and printed accounts, have undergone allegoric transformation. It is difficult to rule out the court’s mediation in the choice of the auto subject and it seems that Calderón assumed that the protagonists, including Queen Christina herself, would be present at the premiere, which gives the entire composition a Baroque dimension of multiplied mirror, very characteristic of the playwright’s late work. Reality mingles with stage fiction. Calderón used the iconographic canons popular at that time, which can be seen especially in the scene where Queen Christina is introduced: this dramatized portrait of the Queen of Sweden shows her focused, reading the writings of St. Augustine.