Infant of Prague and Charles Bridge

December 18, 2009

The Church of Our Lady Victorious…..where the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague resides!

clip_image001I 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.

Infant%20Jesus2About 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   

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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. 

clip_image001[3]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…

Now we are on the other side of the Judith Tower…and looking back from where we came. clip_image001[5]

 

 

clip_image001[7]One would expect to see a river below the bridge, but for a bit we just looked down on the very posh part of Mala Strana…

 

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View of Prague from bridge

 

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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.

clip_image001[13]Another view of the Mala Strana side.

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!

The castle ends

December 17, 2009

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Continuing Golden Lane…

We are now inside and upstairs on Golden Lane.  Smelly, no air, and a fantastic museum in the rooms.  Old cavalry items, armour, bows, guns, and items showing the way of life back then.  What a horrible place to live:  cramped rooms, tiny tiny windows–slits really because the rooms on the right are built right up to the castle walls. 

However, they were very modern in some ways:clip_image001[5]

Say no more……at least this room is ventilated!  Ha, ha.

This site, if you care to look, actually tells about Golden Lane and is interesting:   http://www.prague.net/the-golden-lane

We are now at the back gate and having seen the three things we paid for, and having spent all afternoon doing so, we are now going to walk down the steps to Mala Strana again.

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A lovely view of Prague…

 

 

And a romantic steeple in a garden below….clip_image001[19]

 

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A part of the OLD castle walls…I would so love to have lived in one of these red tiled buildings and gone to fancy balls! 

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The backside of the 17th century Wallenstein Palace below the castle…It is styled in Italian Baroque.  I have a book that shows the insides….with walls and ceilings of beautiful frescoes, inside fountains, an aviary, all the things the rich like!

 

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Garden below the castle vineyards. (You can see the terraced vineyard in background).

 

 

 

Next is a picture that people from Portland, Oregon will enjoy!

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Does this not look like the Pittock Mansion and the Williamette in the background?  So does that make Prague and Portland sister cities?  Good idea, I think!

 

 

We are down from the castle now and had to convince our tired feet to see one more place in this neighborhood:  the Church of Our Lady Victorious!  It was a wonderful surprise for me.

Its a big castle!

December 15, 2009

clip_image001Across from St. Vitus is the very elegant ticket office for The Castle!  There are various tours available…the Full Monty, or bits and pieces.  We chose The Old Royal Palace, St. George’s Church (smallish) and Golden Lane.  We felt satisfied with those three.

 

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This passage leads from St. Vitus to the old Royal Palace.

 

 

 

clip_image001[7]Vladislav (Wenseslas) Hall used to be the largest secular hall of medieval Prague.  It was built in the 9th century and was the seat of the Bohemian Princes.  From the 16th century it was used for coronation festivities, knights’ tournaments, balls or markets with luxurious goods. Knights on horseback could enter the hall by climbing Rider’s Staircase. The hall is now used for the elections of the president of the Czech Republic and for ceremonious state events.

Upstairs are Council Rooms: New Land Property Registry, and Room of the Diet!  (Diet?  I always wonder when I see this word.  Like in "Martin Luther and the Diet of Worms").  Diet in this case is political and means Assembly.  Ghastly thought, Diet of Worms!  Yuk!  Ha, ha.

We actually do not have any more pictures of this wonderful old building.  We went upstairs through steep and curving staircases into the above mentioned rooms, where no pictures were allowed.  We saw some clothing, some books, and a wonderful old tiled fireplace (which was working!).  Everything was tilting, old, and seeped with intrigue.  In one of the rooms a beheading took place!

Replicas of the Crown jewels are in one room, and I found out during WWII the real jewels were hidden in this Palace.

clip_image001[9]St. George’s Monastery and Basilica is the oldest church within the castle walls.  It is often said it does not look like the oldest church…but yes, it is. It was founded in 920 by Vratislav I, and rebuilt in the late 12th century. Parts of baroque facade come from the 17th century.  However, inside you can still appreciate the oldness of it.  It now serves as a Concert Hall. In fact that night they were offering a programme of the music of Corelli, Pachelbel, Mozart and Vivaldi!

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We are now leaving this courtyard and going to Golden Lane…

Down the hill and around the corner…

 

 

clip_image001[15]Golden Lane also known as Alchemist Lane and Goldsmith Lane!  I like what one "blogger" had to say:

“The colourful, little houses in Golden Lane were built, in 1597, by order of Emperor Rudolph II, in order to house his top marksmen and their families, as these were the men who would protect him from his enemies, and he had a lot!
So, it might have been called Sniper Alley, but later it housed alchemists and goldsmiths. Hence the name, Golden Lane.
The most interesting twentieth century resident was Franz Kafka’s sister, Otla, who lived at No. 22. It was while Kafka was staying there, in 1917, that he got the inspiration to write, "The Castle".

Next I will show a couple of pictures from here…and the walk back down with city views.

More Chapels

December 14, 2009

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Blurry organ…this must really echo among the pillars and space!  I bet a concert in here would be fantastic!

St. John of Nepomuk Chapel:  John of Nepomuk, 14th century is a national saint of the Czech Republic, who was drowned in the Vltava river (thrown off The Charles Bridge) at the behest of Wenceslaus, King of the Romans and King of Bohemia.  (A later King Wenceslaus, not the Good King! )  The reason for his drowning is not known for certain.  He was the Confessor of the King’s wife.  The King, her husband, thought she had a lover, or was having an affair, and that St. John would know about it since he heard her confessions. But St. John said he could not tell, as priest’s are not suppose to do.  Therefore, King Wenceslas had him killed!  The other motive is political, and difficult to retell.  At any rate, life was certainly dangerous and full of intrigue in those days.

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Close-ups of St John of Nepomuk’s coffin.  Looks like a gigantic tea service!  Ha, ha! 

My my, is that dust–or age?

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St. John of Nepomuk chapel incense burners — are they called thuribles?. 

 

 

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The window in his chapel was quite different than the rest.  The entire chapel was so ornate it almost made you choke!  Or maybe we had seen so much, we were now on "overload"!  Time to go…

Now we are leaving the church, but not the castle . . .

Saints and Sinners

December 12, 2009

clip_image001Now we move on to look at some little chapels that surround the side of the church.

Chapel of St Sigismund :  In the 14th century, Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor, transferred Sigismund’s relics to Prague, hence he has become a patron saint of the Czech Republic.

I have been researching St. Sigismund (who was a King of Burgundy in the 6th century) and frankly cannot figure out how or why he was canonized–as he murdered his own son.  Although it is written he was so shocked by it, that he founded a monastery in Switzerland!  He asked God to punish him in this life which he was – by being defeated in an important battle and ended up being drowned in a well.   Well, well, well….so he was martyred and now part of him is here!  Interesting….

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Some details

St. Wenceslas’ Chapel:  Saint Wenceslaus I (10th century –  was duke  of Bohemia from 921 until his death. Wenceslas is best known in the English-speaking world as the subject of the Christmas carol "Good King Wenceslas."   Wenceslaus is the patron saint of the Czech people and the Czech Republic. His feast day is September 28

" …But his deeds I think you know better than I could tell you; for, as is read in his Passion, no one doubts that, rising every night from his noble bed, with bare feet and only one chamberlain, he went around to God’s churches and gave alms generously to widows, orphans, those in prison and afflicted by every difficulty, so much so that he was considered, not a prince, but the father of all the wretched…."  

Today he might be considered crazy, a danger to people and locked up…which is rather sad….(Where have we gone wrong?  Food for thought)

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You could not go inside the chapel.  Just peek into the room.  The light fixture was so pretty…almost like a regal crown!

The stain glass window here is very subdued..

I poked my camera around the corner and took this shot of the walls.  This chapel has 1,350 semi-precious stones set into the walls making frames around the frescoes!  Below the floor are his relics. I found the insignia on the door interesting….the eagle. The door you see is the door with 7 locks!  The steps go up to the Crown Room where the Crown Jewels reside to this day. 

(The Crown Jewels chamber in St. Vitus Cathedral is under lock and key, and without exaggerating it is the place least accessible in Prague Castle. The door, and likewise the iron safe, has seven locks and there are seven holders of the keys: the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, the Prague Archbishop, the Chairman of the House of Deputies, the Chairman of the Senate, the Dean of the Metropolitan Chapter of St. Vitus Cathedral and the Lord Mayor of Prague, who must all convene to facilitate opening the impenetrable door and coffer.)

Replica’s of the jewels are on display somewhere in the castle but we move on to more chapels.