In medieval Europe, alchemy was all the rage—at least among the more eccentric nobles. Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II patronized alchemists such as John Dee and Edward Kelley, who were trying to turn lead into gold. Sweden’s Queen Christina employed some of alchemy’s brightest stars, like Giuseppe Francesco Borri and Johannes Franck. The Swedish queen even conducted some experiments of her own, delving into the mysteries of the Philosopher’s Stone and the eternal life it promised. Their patronage of the mystical arts attracted many to Prague, Stockholm, and Rome, where Christina had established a secondary court. Would-be alchemists from across Europe gathered to practice, collaborate, and gain spiritual enlightenment through their esoteric experiments.
Today, many of the castles, homes, and hidden laboratories of these alchemists are still standing. Tucked away in the corners of Prague, you can travel back in time to an alchemist’s hidden, underground laboratory or learn about John Dee’s fascination with angelic communication. In Italy, traces of Christina’s court linger in a magical door in Rome and a house inscribed with mysterious symbols in Anagni. Take a moment to marvel at these incredible, alchemical places where you might just learn how to finally turn that chunk of lead into an orb of gold.