The Church of Our Lady Victorious…..where the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague resides!
I can remember being in Catholic bookstores and gift shops where I used to look at various medals,etc. And seeing one called Infant of Prague. It always intrigued me…and seems to stand out from the usual medals of Saints, Virgin Mary, etc. Well, when I was reading about Prague before our trip, this name jumped out at me and I realized it was in Prague…and that we could go see it! So going to this particular church had meaning to me…to finally see the Real Thing! And it is an amazing statue with an amazing story. First off, NO PICTURES allowed inside…sorry. The outside picture is of me to prove I was here! Ha, ha. Me and a group of school kids!
Here is the history: This statue had originally been a wedding gift given Lady Polyxena by her mother. (And her mother before her, etc.) In 1628, Lady Polyxena presented the wax statue to the Carmelites at the Church of the Virgin Mary the Victorious in Mala Strana saying, "I am giving you what I most esteem of my possessions. Keep the sculpture in reverence and you will be well off". This statue then became known as the Infant Jesus of Prague. It stands 47 cm high ( about 2 1/2 feet tall) and wears a beautiful dress. (It is in the Museum that one can see ALL the dresses the Infant has worn over the ages….and what amazing dresses! Jewels, brocades, gold, silver!)
During the Thirty Years Wars the statue was thrown on a rubbish heap behind the alter and found again in 1637 when it was restored and put on display again. During the many wars, the statue has always been protected against further damage.
Regarding the dresses: The cult of dressing miraculous statues is very old. It spread mainly during the Baroque time. Also the Infant Jesus of Prague was dressed since long ago. Even Father Cyril found it dressed in a blue dress. The Infant of Prague is known to have worn many different dresses. At this time, his wardrobe counts over 70 dresses.
About the statue itself: It is protected from damage by a silver casing, that reaches to the waist. The sculpture has probably a wooden core covered with material, that can be seen through the wax. The Infant Jesus was always dressed. It is handed down that Anne Loragh and Mary Sibylla Schayemaier dressed it and then in 1747 the English Ladies. The Infant Jesus wears a white under shirt, over it a white rocheta then a silk top with frills around the neck and hands, the forth and fifth gown is like the priest’s pluvial. On his head is placed a crown. The first crown is from the year 1767, the other from 1810 – 20. There have been more than 70 dresses donated. The oldest well-preserved are from 1700. One is donated by the Empress Mary Theresa. The Infant has also new dresses that are made even of white silon. Dresses come as gifts from all the world.
The photo is a common depiction.
The home site of the Carmelites explains (although poorly due to translation, I think) about this statue.http://www.karmel.at/prag-jesu/english/firsten.htm
Outside was a colourful and fun crèche.
I am glad to have seen The Infant of Prague. While I do not pretend to understand it all, one has to admire the history and the culture and the beliefs of others. Trying not to be mercenary, I must say the money spent on the dresses is staggering! Enough said…
And now it is getting late and we have yet to walk across the famous Charles Bridge.
Charles Bridge a.k.a. Karlov Most: It crosses the Vltava River, connecting Old Town (historic Prague) with Mala Strana (Lesser Town). It was the second bridge to be built (14th century) and is named after Charles IV. It has been damaged many times by floods and is currently being repaired (again). On both ends are mighty towers and in between are 30 statues and groups of statues. Steps in the middle lead to Kampa Island. It is strictly pedestrian. I was sorry to go so late in the evening as it was hard to see the statutes properly, plus there were a lot of people crossing both ways as well as construction activity.
We are approaching the bridge from Mala Strana side….and this is Judith Tower and the only remaining tower from the original bridge before the current bridge. It houses a Museum. You can see it is getting late…
View of Prague from bridge
Proof…(Red nose, cheeks and all!) As you can see, so many people walking. And to complain a bit more…the statues are so very black! Acid rain? Or does the stone just turn that way normally, or is it neglect? The statues are so huge, so beautiful…but so difficult in the dusky light to see them clearly.
The sad fact is that we did not take any pictures of the statues! So to name a few: St. Wenceslas, St. Vitus, St, John of Nepomuk, St. Joseph, St. Anne, The Virgin Mary, Saint Ludmilla, and lots of others I have never heard of! On the Prague side is another tower called The Stare Mesto Tower.
Kampa Island in the middle: The island houses some restaurants, older residences and a park which is known for it’s serenity in the midst of the center. It is popular with couples, the local population, as well as families enjoying the playground. You can also feed the ducks or refresh yourself at several cafes.The wheel of the mill, used in earlier times to mill flour, still turns for our tourists to admire.
Can’t you just imagine the elegant processions that have crossed this bridge when Kings had their Coronations? And the artists, and composers who found inspiration here? It was very romantic, even when we walked across it with all those people dodging construction, etc… I have heard the best time to cross the bridge is at dawn…and I can imagine that must be about as romantic as it can get!