History of the Baby Jesus of Prague

History of the Baby Jesus of Prague

The statue of the Baby Jesus of Prague has always been an object of great popular devotion and over the centuries has inspired the spiritual fervor of many faithful all over the world

The Kostel Panny Marie Vítězné, “Church of the Virgin Mary of Victory,” is located in one of Prague’s oldest and most atmospheric neighborhoods, the Malá Strana, the Little Quarter. Built in the early 17th century for German Lutherans, it is famous because it houses the Baby Jesus of Prague, a wax-covered wooden figurine that has always been an object of great devotion and is now a pilgrimage destination for millions of worshippers.

The Child of Miracles, or Little King, as the statue is affectionately called, is just 45 cm tall, and was made in Spain by an unknown sculptor, perhaps at the request of a religious man who was visited by the Baby Jesus in a vision. Later Maria Manrique de Lara, a Spanish duchess who had married a Bohemian nobleman, brought the statue to Prague and made it a wedding gift to her daughter Polyxena von Lobkowicz. It was she, widowed, who donated the statue to the Discalced Carmelites who lived at the Church of Mary the Virgin Victorious.

The cult of the Baby Jesus, and in particular the Baby Jesus dressed as a prince, was widespread in the Baroque era. In particular, St. Teresa of Avila, a Spanish nun and mystic who proposed a model of faith based on the friendship between man and God and on a profoundly human dimension of Jesus Christ, loved to contemplate Jesus, the object of her unconditional love and absolute devotion, at every moment of His human story, including infancy, and she often carried with her a statuette depicting the Baby Jesus, just like the one kept in Prague. St. Therese of Jesus, also known as St. Therese of the Baby Jesus, the theologian of the “little way,” also loved the childlike dimension of Jesus, she very one who promoted an attitude of absolute abandonment and trust in the arms of God the Father.

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On the other hand a great apostle of the devotion to the Baby Jesus of Prague, , was the Venerable Father Cyril of the Mother of God, to whom, according to legend, Our Lady appeared to show him where the statue of the Child should be placed inside the Carmelite church of St. Mary of Victory, already linked to the Miracle of the White Mountain that had occurred a few years earlier. Baby Jesus himself then appeared to him communicating the message, “The more you honor me, the more I will favor you.”  This phrase is found written at the foot of all reproductions of the statue.

A curious detail: the statue of the Baby Jesus of Prague possesses a whole set of little dresses, just like a doll! Over the course of a year, it can wear up to sixty different ones, and they follow the colors of the current liturgical season. So, at Easter the Child will wear a white robe, on Easter Sunday a little red robe, a purple cloak for Advent. Many of these robes have been donated by more or less famous devotees over the centuries and come from all over the world. Some are decorated with pearls and precious stones, gold and diamonds, hand-embroidered by artisans in the service of kings and emperors and constitute a small treasure. Even Pope Benedict XVI, on the occasion of his apostolic visit to the Czech Republic in 2009, gave the Infant of Prague a gift of one of the little golden crowns that encircle his head.

The Shrine of Arenzano

The Shrine of Arenzano, near Genoa, is one of the major centers for spreading devotion to the Baby Jesus of Prague. The cult dedicated to the little statue arrived here in 1900, when the Carmelites living in the village placed a painting of the Infant Jesus in their church. Immediately a large influx of devotees gathered at the shrine, accompanied by graces and miraculous events. The picture was replaced by a statue similar to the one in Prague, and a shrine dedicated to the Baby Jesus of Prague had to be erected to accommodate the ever-growing number of pilgrims. Religious gathering centers and activities sprang up around the shrine, which continue to this day, as do pilgrimages from all over Italy and abroad.

Prayer to the Baby Jesus of Prague

o Father Cyril of the Mother of God the Virgin also revealed a prayer to be addressed to the Baby Jesus of Prague. But many others have been composed over the centuries, and a special Novena is also addressed to the statue of the Child. We report only one of the many orations dedicated to Him:

O Holy Child Jesus,

Who spread Thy graces on those who invoke Thee,

turn your eyes to us,

prostrate thyself before thy holy image,

and hear our prayer.

We commend to you so many poor people in need

Who trust in thy divine Heart.

Stretch upon them your almighty hand,

and succor to their needs.

Stretch it over children, to protect them;

On families, to guard their unity and love;

On the sick, to heal them and sanctify their sorrows;

On the afflicted, to console them;

On sinners, to draw them into the light of your grace;

On those who, gripped by sorrow and misery,

confidently invoke your loving help.

Spread it still over us, to bless us.

Grant, O little King,

the treasures of your mercy and peace

To the whole world,

and preserve us now and always

In the grace of your love. Amen.