Gustav II Adolfs många skepnader. Miles Christi, Lejonkung, romersk kejsare & landsfader

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The Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632), one of the main protagonists in the Thirty Years War and founder of a vast but short-lived Swedish empire around the Baltic, has been portrayed in many different guises, depending on time and circumstance. In the propaganda leaflets of the Thirty Years War, he was depicted as the incarnation of Miles Christi and the proverbial “Lion of the North”. The words “In hoc signo vinces” (in this sign you will conquer) and the cross regularly appear on the prints, alluding to Emperor Constantine’s vision before the Battle of the Milvian bridge in AD 312. After his death on the battlefield at Lützen in 1632, Gustavus Adolphus was often rendered as Constantine, i.e. on horseback, gazing towards the heavenly sign. But when, more than a century later, he was dedicated an equestrian statue in Stockholm, the statue is that of a military commander, devoid of all biblical and Christian references. The 19th century hailed him mainly as a great administrator, founder of cities and universities, and accordingly erected statues of him standing in civilian apparel. The latter part of the same century saw a renewal of Gustavus Adolphus’ popularity in both Sweden and Germany. In 1907 a memorial chapel was erected at Lützen, with an equestrian statue of the king on its main facade, closely resembling Bernini’s famous Vatican Constantine – but brandishing a sword to underline his role as the godsent saviour of the Lutheran faith.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)66–90
JournalICO Iconographisk Post. Nordisk tidskrift för bildforskning – Nordic Review of Iconography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Gustavus Adolphus
  • monuments

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