Infant Jesus of Prague

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Infant Jesus of Prague
Gratiosus Jesulus Pragensis
Pražské Jezulátko, Santo Niño de Praga, Divino Menino Jesus, Prager Jesulein
Kostel PM Vítězné a sv. Ant Jezulátko 1.jpg
The image wearing its ordinary green vestment along with its present canonical crown.
LocationPrague, Czech Republic
Date1556
WitnessTeresa of Ávila
María Manrique de Lara y Mendoza
Princess Polyxena of Lobkowicz
TypeWax coated wooden statue with wooden base and silver erector
ApprovalPope Leo XII
Pope Pius X
Pope Pius XI
Pope Benedict XVI
ShrineChurch of Our Lady of Victories

The Infant Jesus of Prague (Czech: Pražské Jezulátko: Spanish: Niño Jesús de Praga) is a 16th-century wax-coated wooden statue of the Child Jesus holding a globus cruciger of Spanish origin, now located in the Discalced Carmelite Church of Our Lady of Victories in Malá Strana, Prague, Czech Republic. First appearing in 1556, pious legends claim that the statue once belonged to Teresa of Ávila and was consequently donated to the Carmelite friars by Princess Polyxena of Lobkowicz in 1628.

The image is routinely clothed by the Carmelite nuns in luxurious fabrics with imperial regalia and a golden crown while his left hand holds a globus cruciger and the right hand raised in a gesture of benediction.[1] It is venerated on Christmas day and the first Sunday of May commemorating both its centenary and “episcopal coronation” in 1655.[2]

Pope Leo XII signed and granted its first pontifical decree of canonical coronation on 24 September 1824, notarized by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, Cardinal Pietro Francesco Galleffi on behalf of the Patriarchal Council of the “Vatican Chapter”, as the first Christological image granted this prestigious honor. On 30 March 1913, Pope Pius X granted authorization via the decree “Significat Nobis” to erect a namesake confraternity based on former regulations promulgated by Pope Clement VIII, which was signed and notarized by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val.[3]

Pope Benedict XVI crowned the image for the second time during his Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic on 26 September 2009.[4][5][6] The venerated image, along with its canoness custodians will celebrate its 200 years of pontifical coronation in 2024.

History[edit]

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.[7]

One legend says that a monk in a desolated monastery somewhere between Córdoba and Seville 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.[8]

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 Maximiliana Manriquez de Lara y Mendoza brought the image to Bohemia upon her marriage to Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstyn.[9] An old legend in the Lobkowicz family reports that María's mother, Doña Isabella, had been given the statue by Teresa of Ávila herself.[10] María received the family heirloom as a wedding present. In 1587, she gave it to her daughter, Polyxena of Lobkowicz as a wedding present.

In 1628, Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz donated the statue to the impoverished Discalced Carmelite friars (White Friars).[9] Upon presenting it, the Princess Polyxena is reported to have said: "Venerable Fathers, I bring you my dearest possession. Honour this image and you shall never be poor.”[11]

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.[8] 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.

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,[8] 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, 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 honour me, the more I will bless you."[12]

Since then, the statue has remained in Prague and has drawn many devotees worldwide to honour the Holy Child. Claims of blessings, favours and miraculous healings have been made by many who petitioned before the Infant Jesus.[13]

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 Victories in Prague.

Copies of the Infant Jesus arrived in Poland in 1680, and it has been popular in Polish homes, and Bohemia in general, where the copies are typically placed in glass-enclosed gables.[14][15] 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.[6]

Description[edit]

The statue is a 19‑inch (48 cm) representation of the Infant Jesus, carved out of wood, which is covered with linen, and the surface modeled in coloured wax.[16] 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.[17]

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. Some earlier records indicate that the original wig was possibly white.[18]

A German copy of the statue, with a white wig instead of the traditional blonde hair, circa. 1870

Vestments[edit]

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 4 April 1655.[11] 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 customised purposely for the statue.

  • Green - Ordinary Time
  • Purple - Lent, Candlemas and Advent
  • Red or gold - Christmas and Easter
  • Royal blue - Immaculate Conception / Feast of Assumption.

The image ordinarily follows the liturgical colors[16] used by Catholic priests, as a representation of its priesthood.

Devotion[edit]

Prague 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.[19] The Feast of the Infant Jesus of Prague celebrates the mystery of the Incarnation, and is observed on January 14.[9]

Each year on the first Sunday of May, a coronation feast and 45-minute public procession with a copy of the statue takes place amid a sea of devotees and tourists.[20] The first procession, initiated by the Earls of Martinice, took place in 1651; the statue of the Infant Jesus travelled from one Prague church to another. The newest crown was donated by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to Prague in 2009.[21]

The 1984 miniseries Teresa de Jesús shows Teresa of Ávila with a statue in a number of scenes. As novice mistress, 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.[22]

Statuettes of the Infant Jesus are placed inside many Catholic churches, sometimes with the quotation, "The more you honour me, the more I will bless you."[3]

In Ireland, the statue is popular and is called "Child of Prague". A wedding gift of a statue of the Child of Prague is particularly auspicious. Irish brides hoping for good luck and good weather on the wedding day ritually place a copy of the statue outside their homes.[23] Devotion to the Child of Prague and belief in its power to influence the weather is still strong in many parts of Ireland. 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 the county of Leitrim.[24]

Statues of the Infant of Prague have been consecrated in churches of the U.S. states of Oklahoma, Connecticut and Michigan.[3]

Rituals[edit]

The vicariate replica copy of the Infant Jesus of Prague in its bare format.

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 faithful as gifts of devotion.[25][1] The statue has had a dedicated robe for each part of the ecclesiastical calendar. The statue is venerated, with the faithful believing that Jesus has powers to give favours to those who pray to the Infant of Prague.[26][27] Copies of the statue are also venerated by Spanish-speaking Catholic faithful around the world.[28]

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.[19]

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.[29] 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 modern Europe.[26][30]

Pontifical approbations[edit]

The figure wearing its former canonical crown, now stored within the museum treasury of the church
Pilgrims inside the church
  • Pope Leo XII — granted a decree of pontifical coronation on 24 September 1824, notarized by the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church, Cardinal Pietro Francesco Galleffi on behalf of the Patriarchal Council of the “Vatican Chapter” . It is the first Christological image to be granted a prestigious honor.
  • Pope Pius X — granted authorization via the decree “Significat Nobis” in 30 March 1913 to erect a namesake confraternity based on former regulations promulgated by Pope Clement VIII, which was signed and notarized by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val.
  • Pope Benedict XVI — during an apostolic visit to the Czech Republic in September 2009, visited the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague and donated a golden crown with eight shells with numerous pearls and garnets, which is at present worn by the statue.[31] 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 donated by Benedict is the one that is permanently worn by the statue.

Confraternity of the Divine Infant of Prague[edit]

Pope Pius X established the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague and placed it under the canonical guidance of the Carmelite Order on 30 March 1913. The Papal bull was signed and executed by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val.[32][33] The Arch-Confraternity of the Holy Infancy, founded in 1636 in Beaune, France is not the same thing as the devotion to the Miraculous Infant of Prague, but they are akin to each other.[34]

Child Jesus statues venerated in other countries[edit]

The American parish of Saint John Nepomuk in Missouri enshrines an image of the Prague Jesus crowned by diocesan honor on 4 January 1948.
  • Since 1200, pious legends and religious devotion within the Iberian peninsula, among communities of Portugal and Spain, the Santo Niño de Atocha carrying a basket spans various miraculous legends. The legend was also carried over to Mexico where similar Christian mythologies were later re-created.[35]
  • Since 1499, in Rome, Italy, another statue similar to it is called Santo Bambino (literally, "Holy Child") and ritually revered especially during the Christmas season such as at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli in Rome.[2][36] Pope Leo XIII granted the image a pontifical decree of coronation in 1897.
  • Since 1521, the Santo Nino de Cebu image of the Child Jesus arrived in the Cebu, Philippines with Spanish Conquistador Ferdinand Magellan. The image is currently housed in a Spanish basilica church built in 1739. A yearly nine-day celebration or novena was introduced in 1889 that includes a procession held in the statue's honour, attracting over a million pilgrims each January.[35] Pope Paul VI granted the image a pontifical decree of coronation in 1965.
  • Since 1536, originally from Belgium, the expressions, accessories and hand posture of Santo Niño de Cebú are similar to the Infant Jesus of Mechelen, and it is believed that both statues originated from the same European source, in Belgium with the devotion to the Philippine image starting earlier of the two.[37][28]
  • Since 1897, in Missouri, United States of America, a statue of the image enshrined at the Saint John Nepomuk parish was given a diocesan coronation on 4 January 1948 by its parish priest, Father Albert Prokes. The venerated image dates back from 1897, brought to America by Monsignor Joseph Hessoun (1853—1903) from his native Czechoslovakia. Pious believers donated their personal jewelry to the image, executed into a crown, pendant and ornaments by local jeweler Edgar Schmidt.
  • Since 1902, the Bambino Gesu of Arenzano in the Basilica of Arenzano is an image copy brought over by Italian Marquess Delphina Gavotti of Savona. A former painting copy of the image was initially brought over by the Carmelite friars. Pope Pius XI granted a decree of pontifical coronation on 24 February 1924 and was crowned by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val on 6 September 1924.
  • Since 1971, in Bangalore, India, a statue of the infant Jesus has been enshrined at Infant Jesus Church[38] in Viveknagar.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Courtney T. Goto (2016). The Grace of Playing: Pedagogies for Leaning into God's New Creation. Wipf and Stock. pp. 67–68. ISBN 978-1-4982-3300-2.
  2. ^ a b Sandra La Rocca (2007). L'enfant Jésus: Histoire et anthropologie d'une dévotion dans l'occident chrétien. Presses Universitaires du Mirail. pp. 65–71. ISBN 978-2-85816-857-6.
  3. ^ a b c J Gordon Melton (2007). The Encyclopedia of Religious Phenomena. Visible. pp. 151–152. ISBN 978-1-57859-230-2.
  4. ^ Norbert C. Brockman (2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 236–238, 54–56, 462. ISBN 978-1-59884-655-3.
  5. ^ Pope Benedict XVI at the 'Holy Infant of Prague', POPE BENEDICT XVI in Czech Republic (September 2009), The Pope and the Child Jesus in Prague, ACN-USA News (September 2009)
  6. ^ a b Sally Ann Ness (2016). Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community. University of Pennsylvania Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 978-1-5128-1822-2.
  7. ^ "Infant Jesus .com :: Devotion". www.infantjesus.com. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  8. ^ a b c "The History and Veneration of the Infant Jesus of Prague", pragjesu.cz
  9. ^ a b c "What is the origin of the Infant Jesus of Prague?", The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
  10. ^ M. Santini: The Holy Infant of Prague. Martin, Prague, 1995
  11. ^ a b Cruz OCDS, Joan Carroll, Miraculous Images of Our Lord, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc, 1995 ISBN 0-89555-496-8
  12. ^ "History - Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague", National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague, Prague, Oklahoma
  13. ^ Wong, Anders, "History of the Infant Jesus of Prague"
  14. ^ Rosa C. Tenazas (1965). The Santo Niño of Cebu. Catholic Trade School, University of San Carlos. pp. 9–10.
  15. ^ LW Reilly (1911). Our Young People, Volume 20, Number 6. Wisconsin: St Francis Press. pp. 175–176.
  16. ^ a b "Statue of the Infant Jesus", Prague City Line
  17. ^ "The statue of Infant Jesus of Prague", Our Lady of Victory Church Archived 7 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Ball, Ann. "A Handbook of Catholic Sacramentals," Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division, Our Sunday Visitor.
  19. ^ a b Linda Kay Davidson; David Martin Gitlitz (2002). Pilgrimage: From the Ganges to Graceland : an Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. pp. 247–248. ISBN 978-1-57607-004-8.
  20. ^ "Czech Rep. Procession", Agencia EFE
  21. ^ "The Prague Infant Jesus' Coronation Celebration", pragjesu.cz
  22. ^ Davies, O.Carm., Peter. "The Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague"
  23. ^ John Horgan (2013). Great Irish Reportage. Penguin Books. p. 382. ISBN 978-1-84488-322-6.
  24. ^ "The Infant of Prague Irish customs - World Cultures European". www.irishcultureandcustoms.com. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  25. ^ J. Gordon Melton (2001). Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology: A-L. Gale. p. Idolatry. ISBN 978-0-8103-9488-9., Alternate Link
  26. ^ a b Régis Bertrand (2003). La Nativité et le temps de Noël: XVIIe-XXe siècle (in French). Publ. de l'Université de Provence. pp. 87–95. ISBN 978-2-85399-552-8.
  27. ^ Thomas De Witt (1859). Annual Report of the American and Foreign Christian Union, Volume 10, Number 7 (July). American and Foreign Christian Union. pp. 217–218.
  28. ^ a b Eva Kowalska (2007). Acta Comeniana, Volume 20-21. Academia. p. 123. ISBN 9788070072912.
  29. ^ Margarita Simon Guillory (2011), Creating Selves: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of Self and Creativity in African American Religion, PhD Thesis, Awarded by Rice University, Advisor: Anthony Pinn, pages 122-128
  30. ^ Reinhardt, Steven G. (2008). "Review: La Nativité et le temps de Noël, XVIIe-XXe siècle". The Catholic Historical Review. Johns Hopkins University Press. 94 (1): 147–149. doi:10.1353/cat.2008.0002. S2CID 159896901.
  31. ^ "Child of Prague", Czech Republic, Land of Stories
  32. ^ "Confraternity of the Divine Infant of Prague", American Ecclesiastical Review, Volume 53, 1915, p. 597
  33. ^ Mulleady O.D.C., Barthold. "Devotion to the Infant Jesus", American Ecclesiastical Review, Volume 57, 1917, p. 605 et seq.
  34. ^ "THE MIRACULOUS INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE", The Sacred Heart Review, Volume 18, Number 14, 2 October 1897
  35. ^ a b Norbert C. Brockman (2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 494–495, 236–238. ISBN 978-1-59884-655-3.
  36. ^ Norbert C. Brockman (2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. p. 462. ISBN 978-1-59884-655-3.
  37. ^ Sally Ann Ness (2016). Body, Movement, and Culture: Kinesthetic and Visual Symbolism in a Philippine Community. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-5128-1822-2.
  38. ^ "INFANT JESUS CHURCH". infantjesusbangalore.com. Retrieved 16 June 2022.

Further reading[edit]

  • 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.
  • 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

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°05′08″N 14°24′12″E / 50.08556°N 14.40333°E / 50.08556; 14.40333