The statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague is located inside the Church of the Virgin Mary Victorious in the Lesser Quarter (Malá Strana) of the city and is one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in the Czech Republic. The origins of this religious building date back to the 17th century when a church dedicated to the Holy Trinity was built here by the Lutherans in 1613.
A few years later, after Emperor Ferdinand II achieved victory in the Battle of White Mountain during the Thirty Years’ War, he decided to donate the church to the Order of Discalced Carmelites, and so the building was named after the Virgin Mary Victorious as a sign of thanksgiving for the triumph achieved.
In the mid 17th century, the church was thus entirely rebuilt by the Discalced Carmelites, who made changes especially to the exterior façade and had the bell tower built. In 1628, the church was enriched by the presence of a wooden statue of the Infant Jesus that was donated by Princess Polyxena of Lobkowicz, who had received it as a wedding gift from her mother María Manrique de Lara.
Inside beside the main entrance are two chapels: the Chapel of Our Lady and the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which used to be the area that housed the statue of the Infant Jesus. The main nave is then surrounded by several Baroque-style altars and a pulpit on whose roof are statues of the prophets Elijah and Elisha.
In the centre of the nave is the altar made in 1776 that houses the statue of the Infant Jesus inside a glass case surrounded by the statues of the Madonna and St. Joseph. Continuing on, one reaches the high altar, which was built in 1717 and in front of which are statues of St. Therese of Jesus, St. John of the Cross and the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Above is a representation of the intercession that the Virgin Mary is said to have made during the Battle of White Mountain in 1620, allowing the Catholic League to win.
The famous wooden statue of the Infant Jesus that is surrounded by two statuettes of the Virgin Mary and St Joseph is the work that makes the church most famous. The Infant Jesus is depicted with one right hand raised in a sign of blessing and his left hand holding a golden sphere with a cross. Housed inside a glass and silver shrine made in the mid-18th century, the statue has been the destination of pilgrimages of the faithful from all over the world since the 17th century.
The work, in fact, was made in Spain by an unknown author and was a gift from María Manrique de Lara to her daughter Polyxena, who married Zdeněk Popel of Lobkowicz. According to tradition, the Baby Jesus was supposed to be passed on to the daughter of the family, but Polyxena having had only one son left the statue as a gift to the Carmelites. From that moment on, rumours began to circulate about miracles occurring that would spare the church and the adjoining monastery from plundering, epidemics and devastation.
The statue boasts no less than three crowns and a trousseau consisting of 46 garments that are changed about ten times during the year according to the liturgical season; thus, for example, for Christmas and Easter celebrations the dress is white, during Lent and Advent it is purple, while the colour red is indicated for Holy Week and Pentecost. The process of dressing the Infant Jesus is carried out by the Carmelite Sisters who follow a strict protocol.
The trousseau is on display in a small museum set up near the aisle, which houses all the baby clothes such as those from abroad (e.g. from Vietnam and China) and those donated by sovereigns of other nations. Among the most famous items are the robe donated by Empress Maria Theresa, the one given by Paolo Coelho and one of the three crowns that was offered to the Infant Jesus by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
The Church of Our Lady Victorious is open with the following opening hours
The Church Museum is open
It is possible to reach the Church by Tram lines 12, 15, 20, 22, 23 to the “Hellichova” stop. Alternatively, those wishing to arrive on foot from the Old Town area should walk over the Charles Bridge and then follow the signs towards the Petrin Garden.
The Church of the Virgin Mary Victorious is located in the historical centre of Prague in the area known as the Lesser Quarter (Malá Strana).
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