HOLY INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE
Malá Strana, Prague, Czech Republic
The Infant Jesus of Prague or Child of Prague ( Czech: Pražské Jezulátko; Spanish: Niño Jesús de Praga ) is a 16th-century Roman Catholic wax-coated wooden statue of child Jesus holding a globus cruciger, located in the Discalced Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana, Prague, Czech Republic. Pious legends state that the statue once belonged to Saint Teresa of Avila.
The statue of Infant Jesus is ornate, studded with diamonds and crowned with gold, with his left hand holding a golden orb symbolizing kingship and the right hand raised with the palm in a blessing posture. The statue's clothes are routinely changed by the Carmelite sisters of the church. It is especially venerated during the Christmas Season and the First Sunday of May every year on a day of feast of coronation and public procession.
Pope Leo XIII approved the devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague statue in 1896, and instituted a sodality in its favour. On March 30, 1913, Pope Saint Pius X further organised the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Pope Pius XI granted its first Canonical Coronation on September 27, 1924.Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI crowned the image for the second time during his Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic on September 26, 2009.
Over its history, copies of the Infant of Prague statue have attracted Catholic devotional worship in numerous countries. Outside of the Czech Republic, the statue is particularly popular in Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Poland, Philippines and Latin American countries that were previously colonies of Portugal and Spain.
The exact origin of the Infant Jesus statue is not known, but historical sources point to a 19‑inch ( 48 cm ) sculpture of the Holy Child with a bird in his right hand currently located in the Cistercian monastery of Santa María de la Valbonna in Asturias, Spain which was carved around the year 1340. Many other Infant Jesus sculptures were also carved by famous masters throughout Europe in the Middle Ages. Often found in early medieval work, the significance of the bird symbolizes either a soul or the Holy Spirit. The sculptures of the Holy Child were dressed in imperial regalia reflecting the aristocratic fashion of that period.
One legend says that a monk in a desolated monastery somewhere between Cordoba and Sevilla had a vision of a little boy, telling him to pray. The monk had spent several hours praying and then he made a figure of the child.
The House of Habsburg began ruling the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1526; the kingdom developed close ties with Spain. The statue first appeared in 1556, when María Manriquez de Lara y Mendoza brought the image to Bohemia upon her marriage to Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstyn. An old legend in the Lobkowicz family reports that María's mother, Doña Isabella, had been given the statue by Saint Teresa of Avila herself. María received the family heirloom as a wedding present. It later became the property of her daughter, Polyxena, 1st Princess Lobkowicz ( 1566–1642 ). In 1628, Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz donated the statue to the Discalced Carmelite friars (White Friars).
Upon presenting it, the pious Princess Polyxena is said to have uttered a prophetic statement to the religious:
Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest possession. Honor this image and you shall never want.
The statue was placed in the oratory of the monastery of Our Lady of Victory, Prague, where special devotions to Jesus were offered before it twice a day. The Carmelite novices professed their vow of poverty in the presence of the Divine Infant. Upon hearing of the Carmelites' devotions and needs, the Emperor Ferdinand II of the House of Habsburg sent along 2,000 florins and a monthly stipend for their support.
The elaborate shrine which houses the wax-wooden statue. Church of Our Lady Victorious, Mala Strana, Prague, Czech Republic.
In 1630, the Carmelite novitiate was transferred to Munich. Disturbances in Bohemia due to the Thirty Years War brought an end to the special devotions, and on 15 November 1631, the army of King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden took possession of Bohemia's capital city. The Carmelite friary was plundered and the image of the Infant of Prague was thrown into a pile of rubbish behind the altar. Here it lay forgotten for seven years, its hands broken off, until in 1637 it was found again by Father Cyrillus and placed in the church's oratory. One day, while praying before the statue, Father Cyrillus claimed to have heard a voice say,
Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honor me, the more I will bless you.
Since then, the statue has remained in Prague and has drawn many devotees worldwide to honor the Holy Child. Claims of blessings, favors and miraculous healings have been made by many who petitioned before the Infant Jesus.
In 1739, the Carmelites of the Austrian Province formed a special devotion apart from their regular apostolate. In 1741, the statue was moved to the epistle side of the church of Our Lady of Victory in Prague.
Copies of the Infant Jesus of Prague statue have been distributed widely. A similar statue arrived in the Philippines with Ferdinand Magellan and the Augustinian missionaries in 1521, during the first circumnavigation of the Earth. During the first years of the christianization of Archipelago, the sacred image helped convert the Filipino people to Catholicism and is locally called Santo Niño ( literally, " Holy Child " ). It is currently housed in a Spanish-style church built in 1739. A yearly nine-day celebration was introduced in 1889 that includes a procession held in the statue's honour, attracting over a million pilgrims each January. The expressions, accessories and hand posture of Santo Niño de Cebú are similar to the Infant Jesus of Prague, and it is believed that both statues originated from the same European source, with the devotion to Santo Niño starting earlier of the two. Copies of the statue have been venerated by Spanish-speaking Catholic faithful in churches around the world. holiday outdoor wears for cocktail party
Copies of the Infant Jesus arrived in Poland in 1680, and has been popular in Polish homes, and Bohemia in general, where copies of the statue are typically placed in glass-enclosed gables. After the start of the Counter-Reformation era of the 17th century, the statue spread among the Christian communities of South Africa, Australia, Caribbean, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
The statue is a 19‑inch ( 48 cm ), wooden and coated wax representation of the Infant Jesus. The surface of the wax is quite fragile. In order to protect the fragile wax surface, the bottom half below the waist is enclosed in a silver case.
Since 1788, the statue's raised two fingers have worn two rings, as a thanksgiving gift by a noble Czech family for healing their daughter, along with its golden blond hair. Some earlier records indicate that the original wig was possibly white.
Several costly embroidered vestments have been donated by benefactors. Among those donated are those from Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, which are preserved to this day. A notable garment in the collection is an ermine cloak placed on the statue the first Sunday after Easter, which is the anniversary day of the coronation of the statue by the Archbishop of Prague Ernst Adalbert von Harrach on April 04, 1655. In 1713 the clothing began to be changed according to the liturgical norms. Other valuable garments worn by the image are vestments studded with various gemstones, embroidered with gold, and silk fabrics as well as handmade lace customized purposely for the statue.
Green - Ordinary Time
Purple - Lent, Candlemas and Advent
Red or Gold - Christmas and Easter
Royal Blue - Immaculate Conception / Solemnity of the Assumption
In April 1639, the Swedish army began a siege of the city of Prague. The frightened citizens hurried to the shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague as services were held day and night at the Church of Our Lady Victorious in the Little Quarter. When the army decided instead to pull out, the grateful residents ascribed this to the miraculous Holy Infant. The tradition of the Infant Jesus procession and the coronation continues to this day. This ceremony is the closing highlight of the annual Feast of the Infant Jesus in Prague.
The Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus is the principal feast of the miraculous Infant.
Many saints have had a particular devotion to the Infant Jesus, such as Saint Athanasius, Saint Jerome, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Saint Francis of Assisi, and Saint Anthony of Padua. The 1984 miniseries Teresa de Jesús, shows Saint Teresa of Avila with a statue in a number of scenes. As novice mistress, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus placed the statue in the novitiate at Lisieux, because she knew the many blessings the Divine Child brought to the Carmelite novices in Prague when it was placed in their midst.
Today, numerous Catholic pilgrims pay homage to the Infant of Prague every year. It is one of the major pilgrimage centres in Central Europe, with the Prague church housing the Infant Jesus statue offering regular mass in Czech, Spanish, Italian and German languages. Statuettes of the Infant Jesus are placed inside many Catholic churches, sometimes with the quotation, " The more you honor me, the more I will bless you. "
Devotion to the Child of Prague and belief in its power to influence the weather is still strong in many parts of Ireland. A wedding gift of a statue of the Child of Prague is particularly auspicious. It is also common to see the Child Of Prague displayed in the window of houses in some of the older parts of Dublin and the practice of putting it out in the hedge or burying it in the garden as a solicitation for good weather is widespread in areas as far apart as Cork, Dublin, Sligo and Leitrim.
Copies of the Infant of Prague statue are venerated in many countries of the Catholic world. In the church where the original is housed, it is ritually cared for, cleaned and dressed by the Carmelite sisters of the church, who change the Infant Jesus' clothing to one of the approximately one hundred costumes donated by the faithfuls as gifts of devotion. The statue has had a dedicated robe for each part of the ecclesiastical calendar. The statue is venerated, with the faithful believing that it has powers to give favours to those who pray to the Infant of Prague. Copies of the statue are also venerated in Spanish speaking Catholic faithfuls around the world.
Once every four years, two wooden statues of Infant Jesus made in Prague are sent to various Catholic churches of the world. The Prague church also has a dedicated service that every week ships copies of the statue, cards, religious souvenirs and other items globally to Catholic devotees.
Churches modelled on the Prague church have been founded elsewhere, such as in the United States and Africa, where the devotees sing, dance, preach and shout. The devotional worship of Infant Jesus of Prague is not limited to Prague, and during the 18th century it expanded to churches in Central Europe. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as plaster and metal moulding became more affordable, the statues of the Infant of Prague spread rapidly into the homes of early modern Europe.
In the Iberian peninsula, among communities of Portugal and Spain, copies of the infant Jesus of Prague are popular, though known with different names, such as Menino Deus ( literally, " Boy God " ). In Italy, a statue similar to it is called Santo Bambino ( literally, " Holy Child " ), and ritually revered during the Christmas season such as at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome. The copy of the Infant of Prague in the Philippines is anointed with oil by its devotees. In Ireland, the statue is popular and is called " Child of Prague ". Irish brides hoping for good luck and good weather on the wedding day ritually place a copy of the statue outside their homes. In Irish history, the Catholic devotional worship to the " Child of Prague " soared during famines and epidemics. Statues of the Infant of Prague have been consecrated in churches of the U.S. states of Oklahoma, Connecticut and Michigan.
1. Pope Leo XIII in 1896 confirmed the Sodality of the Infant of Prague by granting plenary indulgence to the devotion.
Pope Saint Pius X established the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague under the canonical guidance of the Carmelite Order on March 30, 1913. The Papal bull was signed and executed by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val
2. Pope Pius XI granted the first Canonical Coronation to the image through Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val on September 27, 1924
3. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in September 2009 made an Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic and visited the Church of Our Lady of Victory in Prague. The Pontiff donated a golden crown with eight shells with numerous pearls and garnets, which is at present worn by the statue. Since that year, the 1924 " cushion crown " of the image is now permanently kept in the Carmelite museum on display behind the Church while the garnet crown granted by the Pontiff is the one that is permanently worn by the statue.