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The Church of Our Lady of Victoria is not to be found in the centre of the tourist area of Prague or in a busy central street. However, there are a great many pilgrims, believers and curious people who make their way towards it. Their reason? Its interior hosts one of the most venerated and well-known images in the Catholic world: the Infant of Prague.
The original building of this church was built in 1611 according to the design of Giuseppe Maria Filippi for the German Lutherans, who consecrated it to the Holy Trinity and gave it this name. After the Catholic victory in the Battle of White Mountain, in 1620, it was given to the Order of Discalced Carmelites, who had just arrived from Spain. There would have been more than enough reasons for such an important gift for the legend to be true, which attributes the Catholic victory to the prayers of the Carmelita General.
However, the new owners not only changed its name to that of Our Lady of Victory, to commemorate the triumph, but they also undertook reconstruction works between 1636 and 1644 that turned it into the first Baroque church in Prague. In fact, of the old Protestant building, you will only be able to see the door on the right-hand side and the marble baptismal fonts.
On the outside of Our Lady of Victory, you will be able to see its lovely façade divided in three by volutes and pilasters. The construction costs of the portico were met by one of the heads of the Imperial Army, Baltasar of Marroas.
Inside you will be able to admire the early-18th century paintings by Peter Brandl, an artist who also worked on the Church of Saint James. In the third side altar, you will see paintings that represent Saint Joseph, Saint Joachim and Saint Ann, with Saint Simon on the left. A small museum will give you all the details about the history of the church.
If you love a bit of a thrill and you are not easily scared, do not forget to visit the crypt here, for here are the open tombs of some important Carmelites and of other guardians of this order. The state of conservation of the bodies, despite the passing of the centuries, is quite good.
The star of this church, however, and what has made it a place of pilgrimage and legend, is placed in a marble altar in the right-hand nave: it is the figure of the Infant of Prague.
The history of this little wax statue dates back to 1555 when Maria Manrique de Lara brought it from Spain as part of her dowry for her marriage to Vratislav of Pernstejn. Almost one hundred years later, in 1628, Princess Polyxena, married to the Grand Chancellor of the kingdom, offered it to this church. The clothes with which this statuette is dressed in are particularly outstanding and are changed every year on a specific date.
Tradition speaks of the Infant of Prague as a miraculous image, author of impossible cures and obliging to his pilgrims. If you go to this church, you should approach its small glass urn and make a wish, because, even though it is just a legend, who knows what it might do for you?
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