Prague, Czech Republic: Infant Jesus of Prague in the Church of Our Lady Victorious
About the Infant Jesus of Prague:
One of the most well known devotions for Catholics throughout the world is for many people is to the Infant Jesus of Prague. According to tradition, the statue was made by a Spanish monk who saw it in a dream. Shortly after transforming his dream into reality, a small boy with a similar face appeared to the monk, pointed at the statue and said, “It is I.”
It is said that St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross had great devotion to the Infant statue. It was first brought to Prague in 1556 by a Spanish woman who came to marry a Czech nobleman, and the statue was part of her dowry. It was presented to the Church of Our Lady Victorious by the daughter of the original owner in 1628, after she became a widow. It had been passed on to her, also as a wedding present.
The Carmelites began to venerate the statue of the Infant Jesus, remembering the words of the gospel “Unless you become like one of these little children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” From the beginning, many miracles and extraordinary events were attributed to this devotion. When the Saxons pillaged the church and the monastery, they broke off the Infant Jesus’ hands and threw the statue behind the altar among the debris, where it stayed, forgotten for several years.
In 1637, the Carmelite Father Cyril came to Prague from Munich. He searched for and found the broken statue and began praying before it. One day he heard these words, “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.” For the first time Father Cyril noticed that the statue had no hands. He begged the prior to fix the statue but to no avail.
A wealthy benefactor who was ill came to Prague and donated funds, but the prior chose to purchase a new statue rather than fix the old one. The first day that this new statue was on display a falling candlestick struck it and shattered it. This reinforced in Father Cyril’s mind that the words of Jesus must be obeyed. Later Father Cyril heard these words: “place me near the entrance of the sacristy and you will receive aid”. A few days later a stranger stopped by the church and donated the funds needed.
It became so well known and because so many graces were received by those who invoked the Divine Child, it became known as the “Miraculous” Infant Jesus of Prague.
About the Shrine of the Infant Jesus of Prague:
In 1644, a new chapel for the Infant was blessed on the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (January 3rd) and this has remained the principal feast day of the miraculous Infant ever since. In 1655, the statue was solemnly crowned for the first time by the Bishop of Prague, on the first Sunday after Easter. (now the Feast of Divine Mercy!) Every year the anniversary of this coronation is celebrated. An old book was found which said, “All who approach the miraculous statue and pray there with confidence, receive assistance in danger, consolation in sorrows, aid in poverty, comfort in anxiety, light in spiritual darkness, streams of grace in dryness of soul, health in sickness and hope in despair.” In 1794 the monastery was abolished, and the Carmelites were forced to leave. Then in the 20th Century through the years of communism, the church was boarded up but devotion to the Infant spread all over the world.
Many saints have prayed before the Infant, including St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). After two hundred years, on July 2, 1993, the Discalced Carmelite Fathers were asked to return to their church and promote the devotion to the Infant Jesus and to care for the pilgrims.
The statue is nineteen inches high and is made of wax and wood. It represents a three year old child with thick curly hair, clothed in a long white robe with only bare feet visible. It is clothed in valuable dresses of all colors, changed by the Carmelite nuns according to the liturgical seasons of the year, and on various feast days. The wardrobe contains over sixty dresses, donated by the faithful from all over the world.
There is a museum upstairs in the church containing the beautiful gowns used to dress the stature, and also a gift shop run by the church for purchasing our own statues and other religious items. The museum is free and open Monday-Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Sunday afternoons from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. It is closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Most Catholic tour groups visiting the Czech Republic will stop here, often for Mass. For independent travelers you can visit any time that it is open and perhaps join a Mass in whatever language it may be being offered. There is an English-language Mass on Sundays at 11:00 a.m. (check their website to be certain of the time).
How to find the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague:
The Church is located on Karmelitska Street in the heart of the city known as the “Lower Town”.
Physical address: Karmelitská 9, 118 00 Praha 1, Czech Republic
GPS coordinates: 50° 5′ 8.8188” N, 14° 24′ 14.6520” E
Tel: +420 257 533 646
Click here for the official website of the Church of Our Lady Victorious in Prague.