After the morning mass, the Church of Our Lady Victorious, located in Lesser Town at the foot of Petřín Hill in Prague, doubles as a museum hosting what could be described as a permanent fashion exhibition for a statue of the Infant Jesus.
The 17th-century church boasts a 19-inch-tall statue of the Infant Jesus, forged in Spain and donated to the Carmelite Order in 1628. The statue dons a rotation of two crowns and over 40 symbolic dresses throughout the year, with a total of approximately 100 robes in the collection. The church has since made room for a small museum so that each of the Infant’s historic costumes may be displayed to the public.
The Museum of the Infant Jesus is a small, permanent exhibition devoted to the spectrum of colorful robes worn by the statue throughout the year. Some of the dresses have been donated by important historical and cultural figures, including Emperor Ferdinand II and the illustrious Brazilian novelist Paulo Coelho; others have been gifted to the church from countries like Italy, Poland, South Korea, and the Philippines.
The Infant Jesus’ layers of clothing are part of a longstanding tradition with ritual significance. A white, sleeveless linen tunic called an “alb” constitutes the first layer, and over the tunic is a gown embroidered with exquisite Christian patterns. The outermost layer is a magnificent cloak in the same color as the gown, with lace-trimmed arms and a ruffled neck. Finally, the Imperial orb is placed in the Infant’s hand, and a crown atop his head.
Each of the Infant’s royal dresses indicates the divinity of his origin, and their respective colors are reserved for a specific holiday. The purity and holiness of white is for Christmas and Easter; red, which symbolizes blood and fire, is saved for Holy Week, Pentecost, and Feasts of the Holy Cross; green stands for life and hope between holidays. Pink, gold, and blue robes mark special occasions like the third Advent Sunday and the Feast of Our Lady.
The Carmelite Sisters are responsible for properly dressing the Infant, and a portion of his wardrobe is on view at the museum, alongside a curated selection of religious objects in the church’s collection.
Know Before You Go
The Museum of the Infant Jesus opens after morning mass, reached via a spiral staircase. Admission is free. On Sunday, the museum opens at 1 p.m. following English mass. The museum is closed in observance of Christmas Day on December 25th, and Good Friday. On December 26th, the museum is open from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.