Church of Our Lady Victorious – Infant Jesus of Prague
If you are Catholic then this will be one of the “must-see” locations for you but even if you are not religious it’s still a lovely and historic place to visit. Of course, the main attraction is inside about 20 metres on the right, the Infant Jesus in the glass cabinet. It’s thought to have originally been carved in wood by a 15th Century Spanish monk who had a vision of the Infant Jesus aged between 4 and 5 years old. Later it was encased in canvas, covered with layers of wax and shaped into the 47cm statuette that you see today.
So we know that the Infant Jesus originally came from Spain and arrived in Prague as a wedding present to Duchess Maria Manrique de Lara in 1556 on her marriage in Bohemia. It was later passed to her daughter Polyxena who married into the powerful Lobkowicz family. In 1628 she decided to give the precious statuette to the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites attached to the church of Our Lady Victorious. You can enter the church for free but try and leave a donation.
The Infant Jesus Lost and Found
The Thirty Years War was causing death and destruction all over central Europe and in 1630 many of the Carmelite followers had moved to Munich but the Infant Jesus statuette stayed in Prague. The Swedish Army then invaded and occupied Prague between 1631 and 1637 bringing devastation and looting of many of the city churches. Carmelite Father Cyril (in Czech Cyrillus) returned to Prague in 1637 to assess the damage and during a search through the building he discovered the little doll abandoned in a pile of rubbish with both arms missing. At that moment it seemed to that the Infant of Prague was speaking to him:
“Have mercy on me and I will have mercy on you. Give me hands and I will give you peace. The more you honour me, the more I will bless you.”
Believing in Miracles
Father Cyril had new arms and hands made for the Infant of Prague. Miraculous events began to be attributed to the statuette and in 1651 it was carried as a pilgrim around all the churches in Prague. However, praying for the assistance of the Infant Jesus is more associated with “achievement” i.e. being able to fulfill a goal rather than healing. The plaques that you see either side of the statuette in multiple languages are giving thanks for the help of the Infant Jesus. If you believe that your goal was met thanks to the Infant Jesus then this can be recorded in a book located in the Sacristy. In 1655 the Infant Jesus of Prague was crowned by the Bishop of Prague and this event is remembered on the anniversary feast-day which falls on the first Sunday in May. But, notice the crown does not sit on his head. Instead it is held just above it.
Clothing (Regal vestments)
Over the years many regal vestments have been given to the church for the Infant Jesus and these are changed regularly in accordance with religious festivals. He is mostly dressed in different shades of green but during Advent and Lent he’ll be in Purple. During Christmas and Easter he’ll wear white. For Holy week, the Pentecost and many Festivals of the Cross he wears red. You can see a selection of vestments in the church museum.
Easy to miss because it’s not really signposted. If you stay to the right of the main altar, inside the doorway is a spiral staircase that takes you up to the first floor museum where you’ll find a selection of regal vestments made especially for the Infant Jesus. Continue to the top of the stairs to find a window that overlooks the church interior. Free to enter but consider leaving a donation when you leave the church.
Pope Leo XIII instituted the Sodality to the Infant of Prague in 1896. Pope Saint Pius X organised the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague in 1913. Pope Benedict XVI visited the church on September 26th 2009. His prayer that day has been translated into 22 languages and he donated a golden crown to the statue during his Apostolic visit.
Mass is held in Czech, English, Spanish or Italian depending on the day. Check what’s planned at https://www.pragjesu.cz/en/times-of-services-and-regular-programme/.
A video showing part of the Holy Communion accompanied by organist playing Bohemian Rhapsody
The church shop has a separate entry door on the left BEFORE you enter the church that opens at 9am or you can access it from inside staying to your right as you head back to the main door. They have a variety of different souvenirs for sale from postcards up to scale models of the statuette. Just remember if you buy the holy water that this has to go in your hold luggage if the airlines still have a ban on transporting liquids.
In general the Church of Our Lady Victorious is open from 0830 to 1900 but the museum, shop and sightseeing options may be restricted during Mass and certain festivals so check the opening hours on the church website for details.