Cleansing Fire

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The Once Ubiquitous “Infant of Prague”

December 27th, 2010, Promulgated by Bernie

This is the original "Infant of Prague", a statue of Jesus Christ as a child. It is 18 ½ inches tall (47 cm) and is made of wax on a wooden core. It is kept at the Church of Our Lady Victorious at Mala Strana, Prague, in the Czech Republic.

An Infant of Prague statue is an image of the Christ child dressed as a King in actual miniature clothing replete with luxuriously embroidered regal robes, and a crown.

In the 1950’s, when I was in elementary school, the statue of the Infant of Prague was ubiquitous in Catholic culture. It was prominently displayed in churches and in homes. Every home had an Infant of Prague statue, perhaps more than one. Certainly every kid had one in his room. They came in a variety of sizes from tiny to nearly life-size. You could buy a less expensive version in which the clothing was only alluded to in painted plaster. Later you could add actual robes over the top of the plaster figure. A variety of outfits for the statue were available in religious stores.

Following the Second Vatican Council, however, it seems to me that the statue gradually faded from its former public popularity. The Infant of Prague was –and is– a very Catholic image in the Spanish and Portuguese tradition. I’m sure that’s why it seemed to get the hook following Vatican II. It was simply too over the top for the giddy “spirit of Vatican II” crowd that surged into positions of parish leadership following the Council. They were generally interested in a very common, ordinary, down-to-earth  human Jesus and dismissive of Jesus as the Co-Eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. The statue of the infant Jesus dressed as a king -even if he is the King of the Universe- was not to their liking.

Even so, a quick search online suggests there is still a sizable market for the image among the Catholic population.

There are legends behind the original statue of the Infant of Prague that you can read about here and here.

The following is a nice summary and reflection from Yahoo’s Associated Content:

“The statue was (eventually) given as a gift to a convent of the Discalced Carmelites near the church in Prague where the statue is now kept. In 1631 the Protestant Swedes sacked the city of Prague and the Infant of Prague statue was taken from its place of honor and thrown onto a rubbish heap behind the altar, its hands broken off. It was forgotten for seven years before Father Cyril a Matre Dei found it and raised money to repair it. The statue became associated with a number of miracles, and also with the protection of Prague from the Swedes.

From an Online Store*

“The Infant of Prague statue has historically been kept dressed in vestments marking the status of Jesus as a Priest and King. Grateful petitioners to the Child Jesus have given the statue many sets of lovely and elaborate gowns. Currently there are 70 gowns for the statue.

“Why does the statue depict the Child Jesus? Devotion to the Childhood of Jesus began very early in church history. Christians believe that Jesus Christ is not just a good teacher or a Son of God, in the sense that we are all sons and daughters of God, but that Jesus IS God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Imagine God Almighty choosing to take on the limitations of becoming a man, laying down His power and becoming one of us. Imagine still further the humility involved in not only being a man, but being a child, an infant, a fetus, an embryo. All of this is what Jesus did for us. Devotion to the Child Jesus is a way to remind the Christian of this fact.

“Devotion to the Infant of Prague in particular has spread largely due to word of miraculous events associated with prayers addressed to Jesus as the Infant of Prague. Other statues of the Infant of Prague grace churches and chapels around the world, and are often found in private homes. There is a shrine and church dedicated to the Infant of Prague in Bangalore, India, for example.

“The story of the Infant of Prague is a story of faith— the faith of simple peasants and sophisticated, educated nobles— in Jesus Christ. This story of faith continues and will continue as long as any are left who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior.”

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*Online Catholic Store

Links:

Images and vestments of the original Infant of Prague

Good site on the history of devotion to the Child Jesus

Photo Gallery of the Church

Panoramic Pictures of the Church

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3 Responses to “The Once Ubiquitous “Infant of Prague””

  1. avatar Snowshoes says:

    Our Infant of Prague is displayed next to the St. Joseph altar in the sanctuary, and His vestments are always (miraculously?) the liturgical color of the day. Infant of Prague, provide for us in our need, especially for faith, hope and charity.

  2. avatar Anonymous says:

    Thank yo so much for the link. There is one on how to make the vestments. i bought the statue, but it is in the box. I’ve been wondering how to make the clothing. Your article is a blessing. I plan to cut up my wedding dress to create the first vestments. Many thanks!

  3. avatar Bernie says:

    Anonymous,
    It would be fantastic if you could send us pictures when the vestments are finished. That you are using your wedding dress is especially beautiful.


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