Church of Our Lady Victorious – Panna Marie Vítězná

Period: 1850–1918

This church was built between 1611 and 1613 by German Lutherans. After the Battle of White Mountain the church became Catholic and in 1624 it passed to the Carmelites. This cathedral is known for the statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague (Il Bambino di Praga –Pražské Jezulátko), whose cult is widespread mainly in western Europe and Latin America. This statue originates in Spain and in 1628 was transferred to Prague by Polyxena von Pernstein-Lobkowitz. The statue is said to have immense healing power, especially as far as children are concerned. Two such cases were recorded in 1890 and 1891 and reported by the Roman Catholic writer Paul Claudel who at one time worked at the French Embassy in Prague. In December 1910 he wrote the poem The Infant Jesus of Prague – L’Enfant Jesus de Prague..

Paul Claudel: The Infant Jesus of Prague – L’Enfant Jesus de Prague. (přeložil Jan Čep)
It is snowing. The wider world is undoubtedly dead. It is December.
But how cozy it is, my God, in the small room!
Burning coals in the fireplace
Cast drowsy reflections on to the ceiling.
From somewhere the sounds of quietly boiling water can be heard.
Above on the shelf, over the two cribs,
Beneath the glass dome, with a crown on his head,
The Infant Jesus of Prague rules and dominates;
One hand holding a globe,
The other relates to his protection
Over those little ones who trust in him;
He is so appealing in his long festive cloak
And noble beneath that immense yellow hat.
He is completely alone before the hearth which casts its light upon him
Like the host hidden within the tabernacle.
Little Jesus keeps vigil over his brothers until dawn.
His eternal being fills the room,
Inaudible as breath,
Incarnate in all these unadorned things, plain and innocent.
When He is with us, no evil can befall us.
We can sleep; Jesus, our brother, is present.
It is ours, and also all these good things:
A beautiful doll and a wooden horse
And a sheep – all three are with us, here in the corner.
We sleep, but all these good things are ours!
The curtains are drawn – Somewhere in the far distance, God knows where,
In the tower the night hour is striking.
The child, happy in his warm crib,
Understands that he is asleep, that he is happy;
That with him is someone who loves him;
He wriggles a little, pushing out his hand,
He tries to wake up, but cannot. –

Bohumil Hrabal, in the second chapter of his novel I Served the King of England (Obsluhoval jsem anglického krále) , parodies the exaggerated worship of the Infant Jesus of Prague. He describes the bizarre development that came to pass when a certain Bolivian delegation attempted to have a copy of this statue consecrated by none other than the Archbishop of Prague in Saint Vitus Cathedral itself.

This guided walk is a part of the “Democracy on the Brink. Historical lessons from the late 1930s” project supported by the Europe for Citizens programme of the European Union.

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