The Prague Loreto is a remarkable Baroque historic monument, a place of pilgrimage with captivating history. The expansive decorative frontal façade with a clock tower, from which the Loreto carillon tunes may be heard every hour, shall certainly not go unnoticed by any local or foreign visitor passing here on his or her way to the Prague Castle. It would, however, be a great pity to enjoy only this picturesque view opening before us from the terrace of the Czernin Palace. Those who descend as far as the Loreto Square and pass through the Loreto gate will be pleasantly surprised by the place of pilgrimage disposition. We are convinced they will appreciate everything of interest that is to be seen here.
Only when we walk through the frontal building, we shall find ourselves next to the “Loreto” itself – that is the Loreto Chapel proper, the so called Santa Casa. It is a copy of the ”Holy House” of Nazareth worshipped in the Italian Loreto as a place in which the Miracle of Incarnation had occurred (here, archangel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the son of God, marking his Incarnation). Lavishly decorated with reliefs on the outside after the Italian prototypes, is a spiritual centre of the entire place of pilgrimage. Standing freely in the courtyard area, it is surrounded by a storeyed cloister with corner chapels.
On the axis of the courtyard, beyond the Loreto Chapel may be viewed the pilgrimage Church of the Nativity of Our Lord. It is one of the most impressive surviving Rococo interiors in Prague. Here, Baroque organs resound every Saturday afternoon during the regular concerts organised for visitors. The music indeed accompanies those who come to Loreto throughout their whole visit – every hour, the entire building comes alive with the tunes of a Czech Marian hymn “ Tisíckrát pozdravujeme tebe” /Hail Mary Thousand Times/ produced by the carillon mechanism, and during feasts, the local organists play, on the carillon keyboard, the spiritual music compositions (the programme is regularly published - sorry, available only in Czech version).
At the end of the tour, the visitors come to the treasury, where the considerable part of the famous Loreto treasure is exhibited. Beside the St. Vitus Cathedral treasure, it is the most valuable ecclesiastical treasure in the Czech Republic. It is dominated by the Diamond monstrance, also known as the Prague Sun created at the end of the seventeenth century in Vienna with the use of unbelievable 6 222 diamonds. Since the foundation of Loreta, the Capuchin Brothers (whose monastery with the Church of the Holy Angel Virgin is situated in the neighbourhood) have taken care of Loreta and of the pilgrims.
The Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov is one of the oldest monasteries of the Premonstratensian Order in the world. It has been a working monastery practically ever since it was founded in 1143. Fire, the Hussite Wars, religious wars, and the Communists all failed to shut down this institution. Even when the members of the monastery were unable to live within its walls, they gathered wherever they could and nurtured the spirit of their House until they were able to return to the monastery complex.
The Premonstratensians are an order of canons regular founded in 1120 by St Norbert. They are an integral part of the Roman Catholic Church, not only as an organizational, legal, and independent unit, but also, and especially, they are an integral spiritual element of the Church.
Ever since their establishment, a move seen as an attempt to reform canonical and clerical life, the Premonstratensians have tried to live in the spirit of their order's five ends: the singing of the Divine Office, the spirit of habitual penance, a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist, a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin, and zeal for the salvation of souls.
Strahov Abbey and its members also pursue this way of life.
The solemn liturgy which takes place at the Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady every day, a profound experience of devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin connected with the formation of our own guilt, forms the basis for a life of saving souls, i.e. spreading the Gospel. The Strahov Premonstratensians carry out their work in the parishes entrusted to the abbey and in the parishes of various dioceses in Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany.
The Royal Canonry The source and centre of the life of the Strahov Premonstratensians is the convent at Strahov, where novices and clerics are brought up and trained, and where the abbot resides along with other representants of the canonry. The current abbot, the seventieth so far, is Michael Josef Pojezdný. He is assisted in the direction of the monastery by a prior, subprior, and provisor. The instruction and upbringing of the younger generation is in the competence of the master of novices and the master of clerics. Currently, Strahov Abbey numbers 80 members.
Besides its spiritual services and abbey life, Strahov Abbey also plays a role in the cultural life of society. The famous Strahov Library and the reopened Strahov Picture Gallery are cultural institutions proving to the world that the Strahov Premonstratensians have always cared for the development of culture and education.
INFANT JESUS OF PRAGUE
"The wax effigy of the Holy Infant of Prague was taken to Bohemia from Spain, at the end of the 16th century. Since 1628 it has formed an inseparable part of the Church of Our Lady Victorious.
Polyxena Lobkowicz made history when she donated the statue of Bambini di Pragua to teh Carmelite Church of Our Lady Victorious. It is said that she was a woman of beauty, wise and talented, famous for her Catholic faith. Polyxena was also brave, which she proved on 25 May, 1618, when she hid the two Hapsburg governors Slavata of Chlum and Borita of Martinice in her palace. The two had been defenestrated at the Prague Castle by estate oposition, and survived the fall. Fifteen years earlier Polyxena had married Zdenek Vojtech Popel of Lobkowicz, a famous Catholic, who would be named high chancellor of the Czech kingdom in 1599, by Emperor Rudolph II.When he was dying in 1628, his wife donated the statue of Infant Jesus to the Carmelite church.
Over the centuries it has become tradition to donate clothing to the Infant jesus of Prague, a tradition which probably began during the reign of Maria Theresa. Her father Charles IV had a statue of her made at age four, as the baby Jesus of Prague. A miniaturised copy of baby clothes were send to Prague amidst much fanfare.. Particularly ironic is the fact that this tadition was upheld even during the communist period, when Asian delegations visited the city, donated clothes to the statue,and caused many a faux-pas for local communist dignitaries."
text - Jiri Kuchar - "Praha esotericka"
Infant Jesus of Prague originally came from Spain. The legend tells that Infant Jesus appeared miraculously to a certain monk, who modelled the statue based on the appearance of the apparition. According to another legend the statue belonged to St. Teresa of Avila, the founder of the Discalced Carmelites, who was aflame with a great love for the Child Jesus. She is said to have given the statue to a friend of hers, whose daughter was setting out to travel to Prague.
When the Duchess Maria Manrique de Lara came to Bohemia to marry a Bohemian nobleman in 1556, she received the statue from her mother as a wedding gift. When her daughter Polyxena of Lobkowicz was widowed, she gave the precious statue to the monastery of the Discalced Carmelites attached to the church of Our Lady of Victory in 1628.
The Carmelites placed the statue in the novitiate chapel, so that the young monks could learn from the virtues of the Child Jesus. At that time the Thirty Years’ War was raging through Europe and even Infant Jesus was not spared when the Saxon army occupied Prague in 1631. It was only after his return to Prague in 1637 that Father Cyril of the Mother of God, originally from Luxemburg, discovered the statue, abandoned in a corner. To his sorrow, however, he found that Infant Jesus had had both hands broken off. At this moment it seemed to him that Infant Jesus was 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.
Eventually Father Cyril had new hands made for Infant Jesus. The gold coin invested in this was returned many times over, as the Child Jesus began to bless the monastery, the local people, and the whole of Prague. Miraculous healings were attributed to him, as was the protection of Prague when it was laid siege to by the Swedes in 1639. In 1651 the statue was carried as a pilgrim round all the churches in Prague and in 1655 it was solemnly crowned by the Bishop of Prague. This event is still remembered today on the anniversary feast-day, falling on the first Sunday in May.
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