Infant Jesus of Prague
|Holy Infant Jesus of Prague
Gratiosus Jesulus Pragensis
Santo Niño Jesús de Praga
|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 Pius XI
Pope Benedict XVI
|Shrine||Our Lady of Victory Church|
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 palm in a posture giving blessing. The idol's clothes are routinely changed by the Carmelite sisters of the church. It is especially venerated during the Christmas season and on May 27 every year on a day of feast and public procession.
Pope Leo XIII approved the devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague statue in 1896, and instituted a sodality in its favor. On 30 March 1913, Pope Saint Pius X further organised the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Pope Pius XI granted its first Canonical Coronation on 27 September 1924. Pope Benedict XVI performed the second coronation of the image that has been historically venerated by the faithful, during his Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic on 26 September 2009.
The Infant of Prague idol, over its history, has 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 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 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. 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. 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.
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 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 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.
The copies of the Infant Jesus of Prague statue have been distributed widely in its history. It arrived, for example, in the Philippines with Spanish colonial officials and missionaries in the 16th century, where it helped convert Filipino people to Catholicism and is locally called Santo Nino (literally, "holy child"). It is currently housed in a Spanish-style church built in 1739. A procession is held in its honor every year in January, attracting over a million pilgrims, and celebrations lasting over nine days – rituals introduced in 1889. It 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 small statue is a 19-inch (48 cm) high, 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. The image follows the "Salvator Mundi" style of Christological depiction. The right hand of the statue is raised in a gesture of blessing, with two fingers raised symbolizing the two natures of Jesus Christ and the three folded fingers represent the Holy Trinity. The left hand holds an imperial orb surmounted by a cross, signifying sovereignty. The image is clothed in a long robe below which his bare feet can be seen. In the past, the statue was decorated with small jewels, presented as gifts. The most valuable one was a copy of the Order of the Golden Fleece, which is now lost.
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 4 April 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 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
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.
Many saints have had a particular devotion to the Infant Jesus, such as St. Athanasius, St. Jerome, Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, and Anthony of Padua. The 1984 miniseries Teresa de Jesús (film), shows Saint Teresa of Avila 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.
Today, numerous Catholic pilgrims pay homage to the Infant of Prague every year. It is one of the major pilgrimage center in central Europe, with the Prague church with the Infant Jesus idol 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.
Rituals and worship
The Infant of Prague is venerated in many countries of the Catholic world. In the Church it is housed, it is ritually cared for, cleaned and dressed by the sisters of the Carmelites Church, changing the Infant Jesus' clothing to one of the approximately hundred costumes donated by the faithfuls as gift of devotion. The statue has had a dedicated robe for each part of the ecclesiastical calendar. The idol is worshipped with the faithful believing that it has powers to give favors to those who pray to it.
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 modeled 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 molding became more affordable, the idols of the Infant of Prague spread rapidly into the homes of early modern Europe.
In the Iberian peninsula, among communities of Portugal and Spain, the infant Jesus of Prague is popular, though known with different names, such as Menino Deus (literally, "boy god"). In Italy, it is called Santo Bambino (literally, "holy child"), and ritually revered during the Christmas season such as at the Basilica of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli in Rome. The copy of the Infant of Prague idol in Philippines is anointed with oil by its devotees. In Ireland, the idol 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 idol outside their homes. In Irish history, the Catholic devotional worship to the "Child of Prague" soared during famines and epidemics. The idols of Infant of Prague have been consecrated in churches of the United States, in states such as in Oklahoma, Connecticut and Michigan.
- 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 30 March 1913. The Papal bull was signed and executed by Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val.
- Pope Pius XI granted the first Canonical Coronation to the image through Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val on 27 September 1924.
- Pope 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.
- List of Images with Canonical Coronation
- Infant Jesus
- Santo Bambino of Aracoeli
- Infant Jesus of Mechelen
- Santo Niño de Cebu
- Santo Niño de Atocha
- Divino Niño
- Holy Infant of Good Health
- House of Lobkowicz
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- "The statue of Infant Jesus of Prague", Our Lady of Victory Church
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Avessadas and the Infant Jesus of Prague Portugal
- Norbert C. Brockman (2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. p. 462. ISBN 978-1-59884-655-3.
- John Horgan (2013). Great Irish Reportage. Penguin Books. p. 382. ISBN 978-1-84488-322-6.
- Norbert C. Brockman (2011). Encyclopedia of Sacred Places, 2nd Edition. ABC-CLIO. pp. 236–238. ISBN 978-1-59884-655-3.
- 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.
- National Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague
- "Child of Prague", Czech Republic, Land of Stories
- 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.
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- 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
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Infant Jesus of Prague.|
- Official website of the Infant Jesus of Prague
- Infant Jesus of Prague on Prague-wiki
- Davies, O.Carm., Peter. "The Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague"