Infant Jesus of Prague
The Infant Jesus of Prague or Child Jesus of Prague or the Infant of Prague (Czech: Pražské Jezulátko; Catalan: Nen Jesús de Praga: Spanish: Niño Jesús de Praga) is a 16th-century wax-coated wooden statue of the child Jesus holding a globus cruciger, located in the Discalced Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious in Malá Strana, Prague, Czech Republic. Pious legends claim that the statue once belonged to Saint Teresa of Ávila. It was donated in 1628 to the Carmelite friars by Princess Polyxena of Lobkowicz.
|Infant Jesus of Prague |
Gratiosus Jesulus Pragensis
Pražské Jezulátko, Santo Niño de Praga, Divino Menino Jesus de Praga, Prager Jesulein
|Location||Prague, Czech Republic|
|Witness||Saint Teresa of Ávila|
María Manrique de Lara y Mendoza
|Type||Wax coated wooden statue with wooden base and silver erector|
|Approval||Pope Leo XIII|
Pope Pius X
Pope Pius XI
Pope Benedict XVI
|Shrine||Church of Our Lady Victorious|
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 benedicting posture. It is venerated during the Christmas season and the first Sunday of May commemorating its coronation and public procession.
Pope Leo XIII approved the devotion to the image in 1896 and instituted a sodality in its honor. On 30 March 1913, Pope Pius X further organised the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague, while Pope Pius XI granted its first canonical coronation on 27 September 1924. Pope Benedict XVI crowned the image for the second time during his Apostolic visit to the Czech Republic on 26 September 2009.
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 Maximiliana 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 Ávila herself. María received the family heirloom as a wedding present. In 1587, she gave it to her daughter, Polyxena, 1st Princess Lobkowicz as a wedding present.
In 1628, Princess Polyxena von Lobkowicz donated the statue to the Discalced Carmelite friars (White Friars). Upon presenting it, the pious Princess Polyxena of Lobkowicz is reported to have said: "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 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 honour me, the more I will bless you.
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.
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 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. 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. 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
WHITE The colour of glory, purity, and holiness – for celebrations, Christmas and Easter
RED The colour of blood and fire – for Holy week, Pentecost and Feasts of the Holy Cross
PURPLE The colour of penance – for Lent and Advent
GREEN The colour of life and hope – for ordinary time (the most common colour)
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. The 1984 miniseries Teresa de Jesús shows Saint 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.
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 honour 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 the county of 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 faithful 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 Jesus has powers to give favours to those who pray to the Infant of Prague. Copies of the statue are also venerated by Spanish-speaking Catholic faithful 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 modern Europe.
- Pope Leo XIII in 1896 confirmed the Sodality of the Infant of Prague by granting plenary indulgence to the devotion.
- Pope 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, 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. 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.
In the Iberian peninsula, among communities of Portugal and Spain, the Santo Niño de Atocha is said to have aided the needy in Spain and Mexico since the 1200s. Santo Niño de Atocha was said to walk the hills and valleys of Spain in the 12th century, bringing food and drink to prisoners of war in Muslim-conquered Atocha, and to Spanish refugees and Mexican silver miners trapped in a mine in Zacatecas, Mexico. The Santo Niño de Atocha from Spain, which predates the Infant of Prague by 300 years in the Philippines, is anointed with oil by its devotees.
Copies of the Infant Jesus of Prague statue have been distributed widely. One such replica arrived in the Philippines with Ferdinand Magellan and the Augustinian missionaries in 1521, during the first circumnavigation of the Earth and the first years of the archipelago's Christianization, 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 or novena 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.
In Italy, a 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.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Infant Jesus of Prague.|
- Official website of the Infant Jesus of Prague
- Davies, O.Carm., Peter. "The Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague"