The Infant Jesus of Prague is a small (18.5 inches tall) wax-covered wood statue of the child Jesus in a church in Prague, Czech Republic. Many of the faithful believe it to have magical powers.
The statue is known from the seventeenth century when a Spanish lady gave it to the Carmelites, at the Church of the Virgin Mary the Victorious, in a small town in Prague, Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in 1628. It is said to have come down to her from her mother and grandmother before, the latter having allegedly received it from the mystic, St. Teresa of Avilla (1515–1582), who reportedly carried a little statue of the infant Jesus with her in her travels (Yeh 2012).
The statue acquired pious legends. One, concerning its origin, claimed a monk had been visited by a beautiful child who announced “I am Jesus” before vanishing. In his old age the monk tried to recreate the apparition in wax, only finally succeeding when the child returned, saying he had come so the statue could be made from his likeness. The monk shaped the soft wax accordingly. The next day his brother monks found him dead but smiling, while nearby the little figure gazed at him as if welcoming him to heaven (“Miraculous” 2014).
In fact, there was a long tradition of such infant Jesus figures—one prototype, with a bird in the child’s right hand, dating from ca. 1340. The bird symbolized the Holy Spirit (“Infant” 2016). The tradition continues with numerous reproductions—statuettes and figurines—of the little statue at Prague. (See accompanying photo of examples from my collection.) The Prague child Jesus holds a globus cruciger (“cross-bearing globe”) symbolizing Christ’s dominion over the world. (That symbol is known in Christian iconography since the early fifth century.)
Miraculous powers were attributed to the figure. It was credited whenever anyone was healed of an illness; citizens of Bohemia began to flock to the church, which became a place of pilgrimage. The statue was also believed to bring good luck and to offer protection to the faithful. It was specifically intended “to obtain the protection of Jesus during the devastating religious wars in Prague” (Laval 2016, 133).
In fact, it could not even protect itself. German and later Swedish marauders pillaged the monastery. The statue ended up, its arms broken off, in a heap of debris behind the altar. There it was discovered but, being in such poor shape, the prior simply purchased a new version of the infant statue. It did not last long because a great candlestick toppled and broke it to pieces. Eventually funds for repairing the original came—miraculously, the credulous believed. But artisans found the work too challenging until a young man suddenly appeared, restored the arms and hands, then mysteriously disappeared. Or so miracle raconteurs say (“Miraculous” 2014).
Devotees insist that it is the child Jesus who is venerated—not the graven image. “It is not idolatry, statue-worship, or any other slander,” insists one source (“Infant” 2016). It may look otherwise to the secularist, however, such things being largely in the eye of the beholder.
Infant Jesus of Prague. 2016. Online at https://catholicsaints.info/infant-jesus-of-prague; accessed October 10, 2016.
Laval, June K. 2016. Catholic Collectibles: A Guide to Devotional Memorabilia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 14, 133.
The Miraculous Infant Jesus of Prague. 2014. Online at https://miraclesofthechurch.com/2014/01/miraculous-infant-jesus-of-prague.html; accessed October 10, 2016.
Yeh, Charito. “The History of the Devotion.” 2016. Online at https://www.infantjesus.com/new/devotion.htm; accessed October 11, 2016.