Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Church of Our Lady

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In Karmelitská Street in the Lesser Town district of Prague stands the church of Our Lady of Victory. It is of quite exceptional significance, not only because of its architecture and artistic decoration, but in particular because in it is preserved and venerated the famous statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. Copies of this little statue and places of veneration dedicated to the Infant Jesus of Prague can be found in practically all parts of the world.
It was German-speaking Lutherans who in 1611-1613 had the church built that today houses the shrine of the Child Jesus. They included not only people settled permanently in Prague, but also representatives of the imperial estates, aristocrats, and diplomats. On 21 July 1613 the church was dedicated to the Most Holy Trinity. The name of the architect is not recorded, but it is probable that he was Giovanni Maria Filippi, by birth an Italian, the court builder of the Emperor Rudolf II.
After the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620, which marked the victory of the imperial, Catholic party in the Czech lands, the Emperor Ferdinand II handed the church over to the order of the Discalced Carmelites. On 8 September 1624 it was dedicated to Our Lady of Victory and St. Anthony of Padua.
The church is a notable hall church building of the Roman type, part Renaissance, part early baroque. In the place where the façade now is there was originally a presbytery. The entrance into the church was from the northern and western sides. In 1636-1644 the church acquired its present appearance with a façade and an entrance facing the main street. In 1669 work on the tower was completed. Adjoining the church on the southern side was an extensive monastery of the Discalced Carmelites; today, the building is the seat of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.
In 1784 the monastery was closed down by a decree of the Emperor Joseph II. The Carmelites had to leave, and the church became the seat of the parish of the church of Our Lady under the Chain. The administration of the church was entrusted by the archdiocese to the Maltese order. During this period, too, the church remained an active centre of veneration of the Child Jesus. Even during the communist period, people came here on pilgrimage from all over the world.
At the wish of the Archbishop of Prague, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk, the Discalced Carmelites returned to the church, after a break of 200 years, on 2 July 1993. Since then this place of pilgrimage, loved by people of many nations, has come to life once more and flourished in its full beauty. It has become a place where people can encounter Christ and each other, a place of prayer, faith and inspiration, from which the peace of Jesus radiates out to the whole world.

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