Europa Regina: Bohemia at the heart of Europe

Europa Regina (Lat. Queen Europe) is a map-like image depicting the continent of Europe as a queen. Such anthropomorphic maps gained popularity in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, producing notable examples like the Leo Belgicus or the Bohemiae Rosa, a map of Bohemia underlaid by the flower of a rose. [1]

The depiction of Europe as a female originates from the Greek mythological princess Europa, who was ravished by the god Zeus disguised as a bull. [2]
Several ‘Europa Regina’ maps were produced, with most of them positioning Europa’s (crowned) head on the Iberian peninsula and the woman’s heart in the region of Bohemia.

The naming of the continent the continent of Europa is unclear, but many historians agree that the use of the term ‘Europa’ went hand in hand with the spread of occidental Christianity, referring respectively to the Greek mainland, the western part of the Roman Empire and lastly the whole of  western Christianity, especially after the spread of Islam in the eighth and ninth centuries (Meurer, 2008: 355-370).

Thus, the cartographic Europa as a woman became closely associated with not only the Christian character of Europe, but also the hegemony under its Christian rulers. The first to create such a map was Johannes Putsch in 1537 – the map was printed by Christian Wechel. Putsch was a close acquaintance of Ferdinand I Holy Roman Emperor, who succeeded his older brother Charles V in 1558.

Charles V had successfully united the Kingdom of Spain, Kingdom of Germany and Holy Roman Empire to the Habsburg dynasty, uniting European Christianity from east to west under one leader. Europa Regina’s head is thus in Spain, crowned, while the body covers the rest of Europe. She also holds a sceptre and an orb, both symbols of monarchical power.       Europa’s heart is situated in Bohemia; at the time, Bohemia not only formed the centre of Europe as a continent spreading from the Atlantic to the Urals, but also of the rest of the Habsburg lands, like the Netherlands, Italy, Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia.[3]
Putsch thus tried to show cartographically the control of the Habsburg over the outline of Europe which is still most commonly used today. The central position of Bohemia favoured the region greatly, as Ferdinand’s grandson Rudolf I even moved the empire’s capital to Prague in 1583, and is still venerated as one of the greatest Czechs in our day.

Europa Regina with Bohemia at the heart

Europa Regina with Bohemia at the heart

[1] Meurer, P.,Europa Regina: 16th century maps of Europe in the form of a queen. In: Belgeo (2008), nr. 3, pp. 350-377.

[2] Renger A. and Ißler R. (Eds.),  Europa – Stier und Sternenkranz. Von der Union mit Zeus zum Staatenverbund, Göttingen: V&R Unipress, 2009.

[3] Bussmann, K. and Werner, E. (2004). Europa im 17. Jahrhundert. Stuttgart: F. Steiner.


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