Weddings and dowries were the beginning. In 1555 the Spanish noblewoman D. Isabela Manrique de Lara y Mendoza offers to her daughter Maria Manrique as a wedding present a small waxen statue 48cm tall representing God as a child. In 1603 the image came into possession of the following generation: it is part of the dowry her daughter Polyxena von Lobkowicz takes with her when she marries Vilem de Rozumberk. It would be that image that Princess Polyxena would offer the Discalced Carmelites Fathers of Prague. Tradition has it that she told them: ”I give you my most valuable possession. Honour this Infant Jesus and you’ll lack nothing!”.
Then it became devotion. Venerated from the very first hour, the image underwent the effects of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648): the Protestant army of Gustav Adolph of Sweden looted the Catholic churches of Prague in 1631 and the image of the Infant Jesus ended up among a heap of debris behind the altar. It was found in 1637 with broken arms and restored and crowned in 1655 by the bishop of Prague. It is still visited nowadays by thousands of pilgrims who hurry to the Church of Our Victorious Lady in Malá Strana neighbourhood to revere the image of the Infant Jesus.
And devotion came to Portugal. It was on the 17th July 1749 that the Portuguese Court beheld the image of the Infant Jesus of Prague for the first time. The image began to be worshipped right then but the extinction of the religious orders in Portugal decreed in 1834 by the then Minister of Justice Joaquim António de Aguiar and signed by king D. Pedro IV forced the Discalced Carmelites to leave the country taking with them the devotion to the Infant Jesus of Prague.
Devotion would come back a hundred years later. In the early 1940s the Order of the Discalced Carmelites revived much to the influence of Father Isidoro Maguna (1907-1975) who was then the Provincial Deputy of the Order in Portugal. They decided to build a monastery for the novitiate and it become real with the donation of Quinta da Mória, in Avessadas. The first stone was laid on the 19th April 1960 .
The buiding of the Sanctuary of the Infant Jesus of Prague would take nineteen months. The monastery was inaugurated on the 22nd October 1961 with pomp and circumstance. According to reports of the time groups of people came from everywhere to participate in the ceremonies of the opening and to visit the new Monastery of the Infant Jesus of Prague.
The monastery is worth a visit. It is an architecturally rather simple building – two equal bodies with the church in the middle –, but it is impressive and stands out quite clearly in the landscape. Nowadays many groups come here for spiritual retreat but there are more and more people who use it as a “haven” to explore the place. It is a good solution: take it the next time you come for a walk in the area.