Church of the Infant Jesus of Prague
The Church of Our Lady Victorious and Saint Anthony of Padua, also known as the Church of the Infant Jesus of Prague (Kostel Panny Marie Vítězné a svatého Antonína Paduánského or Kostel Pražského Jezulátka in Czech) is a Baroque church located on Karmelitská street in the Lesser Town, at the foot of Petřín hill, more specifically the Seminary Garden. It is of quite exceptional significance, not only because of its architecture and artistic decoration, but in particular because in it is preserved and venerated the famous statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Copies of this little statue and places of veneration dedicated to the Infant Jesus of Prague can be found in practically all parts of the world.
The church was built in 1611-1613. It was actually the first Baroque church in Prague, built by Giovanni Maria Filippi originally for the German-speaking Lutherans and consecrated to the Holy Trinity. The front face of the building was then on the western side towards Petřín hill and presbytery in the east. The entrance into the church was from the northern and western sides.
After the Battle of the White Mountain (1620) the German Protestants were defeated and Czech state began its return to Catholicism. In 1624 it was given to the Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel by Emperor Ferdinand II. On 8 September 1624 it was dedicated to Our Lady of Victory and St. Anthony of Padua, to commemorate the victory of the Catholics on the White Mountain. The Carmelites changed the orientation of the church, so the front face is now in the east, towards the main street (called Karmelitská after them). This reconstruction in the early Baroque style took place in 1636-1644. The high altar is now located at the west side of the church. The tower on the south side of the presbytery was built in 1699.
Besides the church reconstruction, the Carmelites also built a new extensive monastery, adjoining the church on the southern side. Today, the building is the seat of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.
In 1628, Countess Polyxena from Lobkowicz donated to the church the statuette of the Infant Jesus. The coronation of the Holy Infant took place in the church in 1655.
The monastery of the Carmelite Order was closed down by the Emperor Josef II in 1784. The Carmelites had to leave, and the church became the seat of the parish of the Church of Our Lady under Chain. The administration of the church was entrusted by the archdiocese to the Maltese order. During this period, too, the church remained an active centre of veneration of the Child Jesus. Even during the communist period, people came here on pilgrimage from all over the world.
At the wish of the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Discalced Carmelites returned to the church, after a break of 200 years, on 2 July 1993. Since then this place of pilgrimage, loved by people of many nations, has come to life once more and flourished in its full beauty. It has become a place where people can encounter Christ and each other, a place of prayer, faith and inspiration, from which the peace of Jesus radiates out to the whole world.
Architecture and Furnishing
The church is a notable hall church building of the Roman type, part Renaissance, part early baroque. It is interesting for its orientation. Unlike most churches, the presbytery is not in the east side of the church but in the west. Originally a presbytery was in the place where is now the entrance. It is because the Carmelites changed the orientation of the original church, so it could have the front façade on the main street.
The church was originally supposed to have two steeples symmetrically placed along both sides of the west end, but the construction of the north steeple remained incomplete. The south steeple stands at 57 metres high and has two more floors above the church level.
The monumental façade from the year 1664 is adorned by a statue of the Mother of God with her child above the entrance.
The main altar has the form of a victory arch. It was built by Thomas of Jesus in 1717 after a design by Jan Ferdinand Schor. The statues in the foreground represent St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross. To either side stand the prophets Elijah and Elisha. On top, between some war trophies, is a copy of a small picture with a Christmas theme: Our Lady and Joseph with the shepherds beside the crib. The original of the picture was present at the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620. Behind the altar a large picture can be seen, depicting the intercession of Our Lady. It was painted by Matyáš Mayer in the years 1627-1637. Among other things, the altar reminds us that it is better to achieve victory with spiritual weapons than with military ones.
The Infant Jesus of Prague
Church is famous because of the venerated statuette of Infant Jesus of Prague (also known as il Bambino di Praga). It is a 45cm tall wax figure of Spanish origin. This statuette has been piously worshipped for several centuries since then. It is said that the Infant Jesus of Prague has miraculous curing powers and that it was the protector of the city against plague and the destruction in the Thirty years’ war. The effigy is enshrined in a silver case and its wardrobe contains many precious embroidered and decorated coats of various colours. The church is now one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in Prague and all of Bohemia, gathering many religious people to pray here. Prague’s Infant Jesus is being worshipped and copies of this sculpture are spread all around the world; especially in Spain, in Latin American countries, in Japan and other places. Some even hold it to be the most revered image within the Catholic world.
Next to the church, there is now the Museum of Prague’s Infant Jesus. It contains an exhibition of the presents that the Infant of Jesus was given along the centuries from history’s most famous personalities and from all around the world. It is a series of valuable objects connected with the cult: chalices, pictures, crosses, sculptures, and especially part (about 80 outfits) of the valuable collection of clothing that makes up the wardrobe of the Infant Jesus – in total, there are more than 380 different outfits in the wardrobe. The most valuable of them is a dress made and embroidered by Empress Maria Theresa herself.
- Monday-Saturday 9:30 – 17:30
- Sunday 13:00 – 18:00
- Closed on Christmas Day (25 December) and on Good Friday.
- Open on 26 December, 1 January and Easter Monday as on Sundays.
Entrance is free of charge