Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Child of Prague



Its replicas found in many Irish homes, the Child or Infant of Prague is an essential part of Irish Catholic Heritage and part of varied local customs for years, but more of that later. I recently joined the many pilgrims from all over the world and paid my first visit to the Child of Prague, in the Church of Our Lady of Victory. The Church is dedicated to Our Lady of Victory and St. Anthony of Padua and is the keeping of the Discalced Carmelites who returned to Church in 1993 after an absence of two hundred years.


The statue of the Infant Jesus originates in Spain and various legends surround it origins. It arrived in 1556 in Bohemia with Duchess Maria Manrique de Lara. It was gifted to her at the time of her marriage to a local noble. It was subsequently presented to the Discalced Carmelites in 1628 by her daughter.


In 1637, having suffered from the vagaries of war the Child was discovered in a corner of the Church minus his hands by Father Cyril of the Mother of God.  He is reputed to have heard the Child saying 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."

New hands were made for the statue and the Church and people of Prague began to benefit from its blessings.


The statue represents Our Lord when a few years old. It has a wooden core with the surface made of modelled wax. One hand is raised in blessing whilst the other holds an orb with a cross. Its gold crown is a later addition. It has an extensive wardrobe of beautiful clothes and is dressed for the liturgical season by Carmelite Sisters of the Child Jesus. A coronation feast is held on the first Sunday of May each year.

 

Every souvenir store in Prague offers a plethora of copies of the statue but if you do visit please wait and support the the shop in the Church which offers a range of statues, medals, prayer cards and other goods. There is also a small museum in which you can see some of the stunning costumes with their amazing workmanship.



Irish Customs
The first copy of the statue was brought to Ireland in 1890 to St Joseph’s Monastery at Mount Carmel, Loughrea in County Galway and there are a number of Irish customs relating to the Child of Prague.


One custom was to keep a coin under a replica of the statue to ensure that the house was never without money. The second relates to the weather. Burying a statue or putting it under a hedge was considered to bring good weather and so was often done by brides the night before their wedding. In some areas custom said that the statue had to have lost its head before it would become effective in ensuring good weather, however, the decapitation had to happen by accident!


The Traditional Irish Wedding book gives three customs in connection with the Child of Prague. Firstly to place the statue under a bush and if when taken it out its head is missing the next day will bring good weather. The second is for it to be placed in the hallway of the bride's house with paper money underneath and finally to place it to one side of the door of the Church on the wedding morning.

 

It would be interesting to hear if readers are aware of other customs relating to the Child of Prague.



19 comments:

Patricius said...

Thank you for this most interesting piece. My parents were married in 1951 and my mother kept the two shilling piece/florin which had been used in the marriage rite (i.e."silver") under the statue of the Child of Prague.

Rathlin Child said...

Massive post. My ma puts the lotto ticket under the child of prague statute in the kitchen so any day now... Where did they get the idea for the mad dresses?

Just a Girl said...

Patricius, thanks for the feedback. Its great to hear about the florin, what a lovely idea. Rathin Child I must try the lottery ticket myself, that hadn't occurred to me!

There are so many robes made by different people and some dating back centuries I believe. So much effort had clearly gone into them and the few photos really don't do them justice.

Charlie said...

Just a darling series of images. Catholicism has a fantastic way of indulging the passion for dressing up but dressing up dolls is taking it to a whole new level. How could anyone think that it is mysogonistic!

Phographic Mementos said...

I never really thought about it but I didn't know that there was a real statue in Prague. The different colour robes are really fantastic.

Child of God said...

O Divine Child of Prague hear my prayer and grant my petition!

VCrowe said...

Well done for bringing attention to the Infant of Prague. Like the Sacred Heart and the little red votive light before it the Infant of Prague was one of the strong devotions in Irish homes. We need to bring them back. Well done for the good work that you do on this site.

Shandon Belle said...

Thank you JAG. It is a fantastic post. I loved Prague. It has a strange mix of the baroque and the orient.

There was a picture of the Child over the fireplace in my Grandmother's house. She used to look up and smile at him every day. I carry a tiny Child of Prague with me everywhere.

I think that it is a very powerful image that could do a lot of good things in Ireland if the priests would take it up. Even when you see it in churches now it's stuck away in a corner.

My Gran used to say "put your trust in him and your trust will be rewarded."

Jessie said...

I love the beautiful holy child of Prague. The innocent Christ child who reigns in the hearts of all christians and over our homes. A little shiver came over me when I saw those fantastic beautiful pictures of the original statue. I really agree that getting the holy child back into Irish homes will being lots of blessings on our land. Thank you so much for promoting the holy child of Prague.

Just a Girl said...

Thanks for all the positive feedback, I'm so glad people enjoyed the post!

kee said...

Thank you! This brought back memories of our visit to Prague and the Church of Our Lady of Victory there over 10 years ago. Now we have children around the same age as the Infant Jesus portrayed in the statue.
Your post has inspired me to give our little statue a more prominent place in our home and tell our lads about it.

Republican said...

Was the colour blue for some special feast day? I had heard that the robes are changed with the liturgical feast. May the Child of Prague bless your great works.

Bizzy Izzy said...

Why have I never heard about this before? There is a clear communications deficit. Perhaps they are afraid that the shrine becomes too touristy. Very beautiful pictures and I enjoyed the text and comments.

Isobel

Quis ut Deus said...

Visited Praha some years back but never got in to the shrine. It was always an Irish statue in the States. Like the guys all say its everywhere in Ireland.

Jessie said...

Every time I come back to this site I find more things that make me sit and look for ages. I want to thank you for all you do to make the internet a more beautiful and sanctified place.

Just a Girl said...

Jessie, many thanks for your lovely comment which I know everyone who contributes to this blog will really appreciate.

Anonymous said...

Italian custom is to enshrine the infant next to the main door of the house, in order to ensure the families' prosperity.

Anonymous said...

Blessed be the infant of Prague

Andrea Deegan said...

Was given a present pf a child of Prague from a lovely lady and was wondering where best to put it