Infant Jesus of Prague
|Holy Infant Jesus of Prague
Gratiosus Jesulus Pragensis
Santo Niño Jesús de Praga
The original wooden and coated wax statue given by Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz to the Discalced Carmelites in 1628
|Location||Prague, Czech Republic|
|Witness||Saint Teresa of Avila
María Manrique de Lara y Mendoza
|Type||Wax coated wooden statue with wooden base & silver erector|
|Holy See approval||Pope Leo XIII
Pope Saint Pius X
Pope Benedict XVI
|Shrine||Our Lady of Victory Church|
The Infant Jesus 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 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 and allegedly holds miraculous powers, especially among expectant mothers.
The statue is known worldwide in relation to earlier child-Jesus icons, most prominently the Santo Nino de Atocha in Spain and Latin America (13th century), the Santo Nino de Cebu (1521) in the Philippines, and recent ones such as the Holy Infant of Good Health (from Mexico, 1939), and the Divino Niño (from Colombia, 1940's).
In addition, the statue has also merited several Papal sanctions through Pope Leo XIII who instituted the Sodality to the Infant Prague of Jesus in 1896, followed by Pope Saint Pius X who organized the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague in 1913, and most recently, Pope Benedict XVI, who granted a Canonical Coronation to the image during his Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic in September 2009.
The exact origin of the Infant Jesus statue is not known, but historical sources point to a small 19 inch (48 cm) high sculpture of the Holy Child with a bird in his right hand presently located in the Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria 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.
Its earliest history can be traced back to Prague in the year 1628 when the small, 19-inch (48 cm) high, wooden and coated wax statue of the Infant Jesus was given by Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz (1566–1642) to the Discalced Carmelites, to whom she had become greatly attached. The princess had received the statue as a wedding gift (1603) from her mother, María Manrique de Lara y Mendoza, a Spanish noblewoman, to whom it had been a wedding gift in Spain (1555) and who had brought it to Bohemia. An old legend in the Lobkowicz family insists that Doña María had been given the statue by Saint Teresa of Avila herself.
The statue first appeared in 1556, when Maria Manriquez de Lara brought the image to Bohemia as a wedding heirloom to Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstyn. The statue's raised two fingers raised in a blessing gesture symbolizes the two natures of Jesus Christ and the three folded fingers represent the Holy Trinity. Princess Polyxena inherited the statue from her mother after death. In 1628, Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz presented the statue to the Carmelite friars and instructed them to venerate the image.
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. Honour 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. Carmelite novices voluntarily vow themselves to poverty, and here they professed their poverty in the presence of the Divine Infant.
In 1630, the Carmelite novitiate was transferred to Munich. With the transfer of novices, Prague lost its most ardent devotees of the Infant. Disturbances in Bohemia due to the Thirty Years War brought an end to the special devotions, and on November 15, 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, its hands broken off, for seven years, until it was found again in 1637 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 go and 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.
Various regal vestments have been given to the statue. In 1713 they began to be changed according to the liturgical norms. Among the vestments donated were those by Empress Maria Theresa and Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria, which are preserved to this day.
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.
In 1896, Pope Leo XIII confirmed the Sodality of the Infant of Prague by granting plenary indulgence to the devotion. In 1913, Pope Saint Pius X regularized the membership of the confraternity under the canonical guidance of the Carmelite Order. In September 2009, Pope Benedict XVI 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. Currently, the image, along with the Santo Nino de Cebu, enjoys the status of being canonically crowned as the only Christological image amongst various Marian images that were previously crowned by a Pontiff.
Today, thousands of pilgrims pay homage to the Infant of Prague every year. 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." A copy of this statuette is placed in the University Chapel in Naples, Italy with the information on the original Prague's statuette.
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.
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. The practise 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. 
Once every four years, two wooden statues of Infant Jesus made in Prague are sent to various Catholic churches of the world. In India, the Infant Jesus Shrine in Bangalore and the Saint Theresa Church Perambur (Chennai) obtain one each of these statues. The church in Prague has also gifted two of the Infant Jesus statues to Fr. Agnel School of Vashi, Navi Mumbai.
In the 1984 miniseries Teresa de Jesús (film), Saint Teresa of Avila is portrayed holding the statue during a rainstorm which ravaged their convent in Spain. Another scene shows a religious sister carrying the statue while Saint Teresa is resting next to her within a moving wagon. In other scenes, religious sisters are also seen changing the vestments of the statue in accordance to the liturgical seasons. Saint Teresa of Avila is also portrayed asking many noble women to pray to this image with pious devotion.
- Emericus a S. Stephano O.Carm.Disc.: Pragerisches Gross und Klein. Das ist: Geschichtes-Verfassung dess in seinen seltsamen Gnaden, scheinbaren Wunder Zeichen, Wunder-würdigen Begebenheiten Grossen … (Prague 1737). Accessible through Dpt. of manuscripts and old printed books, National library of the Czech Republic. Sig. 51-G-39. (This is the original edition of the legend.)
- Emericus a S. Stephano O.Carm.Disc.: Pražské Weliké a Malé. To gest Wejtah Příběhův … (Prague 1749). This is the first Czech translation of the upper one.
- The Infant of Prague, by the Reverend Ludvik Nemec, Benziger Brothers, Inc, 1958.
- Miraculous Images of Our Lord, by Joan Carroll Cruz, OCDS, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, 1995. ISBN 0-89555-496-8
- Holy Infant Jesus, by Ann Ball & Damian Hinojosa, The Crossroad Publishing Company, 2006. ISBN 0-8245-2407-1
- The INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE and Its Veneration, by Rev. H Koneberg, O.S.B. Translated from the Seventh Revised Edition of Rev. Joseph Mayer, C.SS.R Catholic Book Publishing Co. New York, N.Y. Nihil Obstat: John M. Fearns, S.T.D. Censor Librorum Imprimatur: Francis Cardinal Spellman, Archiepiscopus Neo Eboracensis Sept 16,1946
- Infant Jesus
- Santo Niño de Cebu
- Santo Niño de Atocha
- Divino Niño
- Holy Infant of Good Health
- House of Lobkowicz
- "A Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals," by Ann Ball, published by Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor.
- M. Santini: The Holy Infant of Prague. Martin, Prague, 1995
- Wong, Anders, "History of the Infant Jesus of Prague"
- National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague
- McGowan, Joe, "The Child of Prague" at Irish Culture and Customs
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