The foundation of the Prague monastery is linked to the Battle of the White Mountain (a location at the port of Prague) fought in 1620 between the army of the Cathelic emperor and the protestant armies of Bohemia. Ferdinand II in serious difficulty in the conditions of the army, had asked High Pontiff Paul V to send him, his legete to Carmelite Domenic of Jesus Mary, “famous for holiness and valid help”. Through his prayers he would surely have won. Fr. Domenic, when he arrived in Bohemia, had found a small picture depicting the birth of Jesus. The Protestants had profaned it by blowing the eyes of the Virgin.
Fr. Domenic took it and put it on his chest, inviting the soldiers to pray with him. Then, climbed on horseback, he headed for the troops that followed him fighting with incredible value. Victory was beyond any expectation: singing the praises of Mary, the Catholic army entered the Prague. Returning to home, Fr. Domenic brought with him the small painting that, to commemorate the victory, was solemnly transferred to the church of the Discalced Carmelites, since then called St. Mary of Victory. The favorable intervention of Fr. Domenic suggested to the Emperor to call the Carmelites to carry on in Prague and in the empire the work of Catholic reform.
They, in order to remember the victory of the White Mountain, gave their church in Prague the title of St. Maria of Victory.
8th November 1620
Emperor Ferdinand II offered a former Protestant church to Carmel with annexed buildings, the church of Holy Trinity. In 1624 Discalced Carmelites took possession of the house and after consecrating the church, the new title of “St. Mary of Victory”, celebrated the first solemn Mass. The situation was very difficult. Prague was still largely Lutheran, and since the rise of the Protestant party in Bohemia (which marked the beginning of the war of religion, the so called Thirty Years War), it had been just six years.
29th august 1624
The statue of the Infant Jesus was a gift from Princess Polissena of Lobkwitz, daughter of Maria woman Manriquez of Lara, Spanish countess.
The princess had received the precious statuette from her mother, who had brought with her from Spain as a precious family relic. The story of this image began in the South of Spain, by an unknown sculptor. It is said to come from a monastery between Cordoba and Seville, in which a wooden copy is still venerated. The legend would have it to have been modeled by Carmelite father who would have tried to reproduce in the statue the features he had appeared for himself and which would have died in ecstasy in front of the finished image.
The Protestant army, led by the prince of Saxony, who entered into the church of St. Mary of Victory. All the Carmelites had fled, except the novice master and a lay brother, but it was impossible to oppose the rampant violence. The heretics looted the church and monastery, imprisoning the two brave Carmelites, and profaned the statue of the Infant Jesus by squeezing His hands.
At the death of Emperor Ferdinand II there was a new Protestant threat and the return of Fr. Cyril to Prague, where he receives the promise from the Infant Jesus.
After long period, the statuette was found behind an altar, filled with filth. Fr. Cyril asked at the earliest opportunity to relocate the Little Jesus in his place, in the oratory entrusting him with the good of the monastery, the city, and the whole country. After long period, the statuette was found behind an altar, filled with filth. Fr. Cyril asked at the earliest opportunity to relocate the Little Jesus in his place, in the oratory entrusting him with the good of the monastery, the city, and the whole country. And here the Holy Infant heard his prayer: Prague remained immune from a new enemy invasion, in the monastery the blessing of God and with it, tranquility and peace returned. Comforted by these facts, Fr. Cyril felt deep gratitude in his heart and was proposing to honor the dear Infant Jesus more and more. So while on day, he was immersed in deep prayers before the Little King, he heard an inner voice: “Have mercy on me, and I will have mercy on you. Give me your hands, and I will give you peace. The more you will honor me, and more I will favor you”. “Fr. Cyril offered to restore the mutilated statuette and, with the help of generous benefactors, managed to restore it beautiful as before. And the Infant began to pray and do miracles, such as that granted to Baroness Kolowrat.
It was the solemn consecration of the hermitage of the Sweet Infant and the approval of the cult by the Archbishop of Prague. It was decided to place the statuette in its own chapel for the prayer of the faithful; the first Hermitage of the Sweet Infant Jesus was consecrated in May 1648. Immediately the inhabitants of Prague came to recommend the protection of the Holy Infant because protestant troops were marching toward Prague. In fact, they entered the city but without artillery intervention; General Konigsmarck presented himself to the Carmelite Monastery, requiring all the locals and imposing on religious to accommodate many injured soldiers. While visiting the monastery, the general also entered the Hermitage of the Holy Infant, remaining impressed to see the Little King. Then, he ordered that he should not harass the brothers in any way, promising to expel the monastery as soon as possible.
3rd May 1648
For 50 years, life in the capital of Bohemia had continued quiet and marked by a certain well-being. But in 1713 the population was struck by the plague which made a terrible massacre. In just a few months more than 20,000 people died. The Carmelite fathers daily celebrated Mass in the Chapel of the Holy Infant and faithful flocked to plead for help. Their trust was not disappointed: none of those who turned to the Infant Jesus was struck by the terrible scourge.
Maria Teresa of Austria on the occasion of her coronation to Queen of Bohemia visit the chapel of the Holy Infant.
The end of the 18th century, Emperor Joseph II, who grew up with the ideas of French rationalism that superstitiously regarded all forms of popular devotion, emanated from the suppression and closed the convents, including the monastery in Prague: expelled the Carmelite fathers, the devotion to the Holy Infant went progressively extinct. For a century, the church remained entrusted to the Order of the Knights of Malta and the monastery transformed into a gymnasium and declared state property in 1782.
For a reawakening of love for Children in Prague, it was not until the early decades of the 20th century that card. Charles Kasper, Archbishop of Prague, founded the brotherhood of the Holy Infant and made some initiatives to revive His devotion: he inaugurated a museum, launched a magazine and promoted several celebrations to remember the third centenary of the coronation of the Little King. These were the last solemn festivals of the Infant Jesus in Prague. It was in fact to come down on the Bohemian capital the rigid communist winter that would have wrapped the Holy Infant.
When the Superior General entrusted the Shrine of Prague to the Order of the Ligurian Province (1993), negotiations took place between the provinces of Genoa and Krakow: the provincials agreed that from now on the province of Krakow it would be occupied by Slovakia and Genoa, so firmly tied to Prague by devotion to the Infant Jesus of the Czech Republic. Therefore, 1994 is the year of the joyful return of the Discalced Carmelites, who were generously facing many difficulties, especially, regarding the language of the village and the restoration of the church and the monastery for the resumption of worship of Infant Jesus of Prague, which had flourished and never ceased, not even under the heavy hand of the communist regime.
15th Jan. 1994
Opening of the formation house in Slany. In addition, the Lord began to stir up some local vocations, in the beginning, young people ready to face the great inconvenience to serve the Carmel: in 1994 he issued the perpetual vows for the first Czechoslovakian Discalced Carmelite. In order to form these young people, he found an former Franciscan Monastery in Slany, it was 20 km. far from Prague: it was in good condition, even if to be restored with a magnificent plot of land attached. In the beginning of the December in 1997 it was inaugurated. Immediately, destined to the students of theology, a very rich life is led to it.
In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI, visited the Czech Republic, met with families in the church of St. Maria of Victory and banned praying in front of the image of the Little King, offering a crown and composing for the occasion of prayer addressed to him.
26th September 2009