THE HISTORY OF THE DEVOTION
Written by Charito Yeh
Prague is the capital city of
Czechoslovakia which is located at the very center of Europe; and its
neighbouring countries are Germany, Poland, Russia and Austria. The history
of the Infant of Prague started in the 17th century when the statue
was brought into Bohemia (now Czech Republic) by a Spanish Lady and was
given to the Carmelites at the Church of the Virgin Mary the
Victorious in Mala Strana, a small town in Prague, as a spiritual
treasure. However, the history of the statuette that has made this church
famous began in Spain.
In the Beginning: Spain 1550
Teresa of Avila.
The popularity of the Child Jesus grew in the Baroque period (Spain) which
may have been caused by the visions of
St. Teresa of Avila,
the reformer of
the Carmelite Order who used to bring a statuette of
the Infant Jesus
with her all the time when founding convents.
The reverence for the Incarnation emphasizing the human side of Jesus Christ
who had become a mere child, was very much alive in Spain at the time.
number of sculptures of the Holy Child were made in Spain and these were
made of wax, ivory and bronze and were dressed in garments reflecting the
aristocratic fashion of that period. It is unknown to this date which of
those early sculptures that got to Prague was the exact origin of the Jesus
speculated that the statue came from a monastery in Bohemia which was then
obtained by Dona Isabella Manrique of Spain. On the other hand, it
was also said that the statuette is the work of an unknown artist of Spain
and in 1550's it was owned by Manrique de Lara family.
Isabella's daughter, Duchess Maria Maxmiliana (Marie) Manrique de
Lara, married the Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstejn in 1556, she
received this rare family treasure as a wedding gift and brought the
Infant Jesus statue to her new residence in Prague.
This noble lady
in turn presented the Holy Infant to her daughter, Lady Polyxena of
Lobkovice when she got married in 1587. When Polyxena's husband died in
1623, she resolved to spend the remainder of her days in works of piety and
particularly generous to the Carmelite priests and brothers of
Prague. In 1623, Lady Polyxena presented her beloved statue to the Descalced
Carmelites at the church of our Lady Victorious with these prophetic words:
"I hereby give you what I prize most highly in this world. As long as you
venerate this image you will not be in want."
statue then became known as the Infant Jesus of Prague which stands
nineteen inches high.
It is clothed in
a royal mantle and has a beautiful jeweled crown on its head. Its right hand
raised in blessing, its left holds a globe signifying
Mala Strana is situated at the foothills of Prague Castle which
belongs to the most enchanting and interesting Prague districts and in its
charming environment, the Church of our Lady Victorious stands with
its facade facing Karmelitska Street. The city was founded in 1257 by King
Premysl Otakar II as Prague's second town where Baroque architecture
It has an
eminent place among the numerous churches of Mala Strana, not only
for its architecturic structures and artistic decoration, but mainly because
it is here that the famous statuette of the Graceful Infant Jesus of Prague
is held and venerated. The church was built in the year 1611-1613.