The Other Images of the Infant Jesus

Yasunari Ramon Suarez Taguchi (The Freeman) - January 10, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — It is not often brought up in conversations among Cebuanos, but the Santo Niño de Cebu is not the only sculpted rendition of the Infant Jesus that holds significant ties with culture and history.

 

Alhough Cebu’s venerated image is noted to be one of the oldest Catholic relics in the Philippines, it actually has a number of “fraternal brothers” – icons like the Niño Jesús de Praga, The Infant Jesus of Mechelen (in the Louvre), and the Santo Bambino of Aracoeli.

Niño Jesús de Praga

Formally named “Niño Jesús de Praga” (Infant Jesus of Prague) and popularly referred to as “Santo Niño de Prague,” this wax-coated wooden statue of the child Jesus is housed in the church of Our Lady Victorious in Mala Strana in Prague, the capital city of the Czech Republic.

Standing 47 centimeters (roughly 18.5 inches), the statue is ascribed to be a representation of Jesus aged between 4 to 5 years old, and is believed to be of Spanish origin (or crafted in Spain).

Various historians indicate that the statue first came to Prague as a wedding gift for one of the Spanish princess who married Vratislav of Pernstejn, a Czech nobleman. The wedding was believed to have taken place sometime after 1555.

Polyxena, the couple’s daughter, again received the statue as a wedding gift when she married a Vilem of Rozumberk. When she later remarried, she brought the statue with her to her home with Zdenek Vojtech of Lobkowicz, her second husband. After the death of her husband, she donated the statue to the church in 1628.

Like the Santo Niño de Cebu, there are various accounts of miraculous happenings linked to the Niño Jesús de Praga – so much so that the icon, like the Santo Niño de Cebu, is revered by devotees.

Infant Jesus of Mechelen

Like the Santo Niño de Cebu and the Niño Jesús de Praga, the Infant Jesus of Mechelen housed in the Louvre Museum in Paris, France is a sculpted rendition of the infant Jesus, crafted to assume the “Salvator Mundi” pose (right hand raised with the thumb and two fingers extended in blessing, left hand carrying an object).

Unlike the Santo Niño de Cebu and the Niño Jesús de Praga, though, the Infant Jesus of Mechelen is not adorned with any regalia, vestments or accessories – it’s displayed without any professional restoration work.

Acquired by the Louvre in 2009, the image is part of the museum’s Department of Sculptures collection. Carved from a block of walnut wood, the sculpture is believed to have been made in Mechelen (formerly an area in the Southern Netherlands) and painted in Brussels sometime in the 16th Century.

Widely regarded to be the “fraternal twin” of the Santo Niño de Cebu, the statue is not the only Infant Christ figure that can be found displayed or has been exhibited in a museum.

Other museums – like the Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe in Hamburg, Germany, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Loyola University Museum of Art in Chicago – have all exhibited Infant Christ sculptures in seasonal exhibits or as permanent collections.

Santo Bambino of Aracoeli

Enshrined in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Aracoeli in Rome, Italy, the Santo Bambino of Aracoeli, like the “Niño Jesús de Praga” and “Infant Jesus of Mechelen,” is a statue depicting the Child Jesus.

Standing roughly 60 centimeters (around 23.5 inches), the statue is believed to have been carved from a single block of olive wood sometime in the 15th century by a Franciscan friar.

Like the Santo Nino de Cebu, the image is associated with miracles – healing in particular.

Various records dating back to the 1800s note that the image was brought to the homes of sick individuals who were unable to visit the Basilica, and that pilgrimages to the image by devotees took place as early as the mid-1790s. PHOTOS: www.pragjesu.cz; Wikimedia Commons

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