Women-founders of Prague Loreto in the context of iconographic motive miraculous Nativity according to St. Bridget of Sweden
Pilgrim place Loreto is situated in the middle of Prague district Hradčany, therefore in one of the most prominent parts of Prague. There we can find Prague Castle, an old residence of Czech sovereigns, and many old aristocratic palaces. Prague pilgrim place Loreto is one of many copies of Virgin´s Holy House which was miraculously transferred from the Holy Land to the Italian city Loreto. Early baroque Prague Loreto was established on 3rd June 1626 by countess Benigna Catherine of Lobkowicz by the ordination of chapel Santa Casa. In the following years, she had the surrounding ambits built and subsequently the pilgrim place was developed to the current form of the big complex for more than a hundred years by many other women-founder. For example, Countess Ludmila Eva Frances Kolowrat, née Házrlová of Chodů founded two of the six ambits´ chapels in 1691 and she donated diamantes from her wedding dress to create a new baroque monstrance called “Prague Sun”, the most famous part of Loreto treasury. Princess Eleonore Caroline von Lobkowicz founded the other two ambits’ chapels at the beginning of the 18th century. Two left chapels hadn´t an influential aristocratic founder, but there are decorated with gifts from Czech aristocrats (for example from Polyxena von Lobkowicz).
In the central point of ambits, there is situated the church of Nativity. Its founder was Countess Maria Margarethe Waldstein, née Czernin of Chudenic. The main altar painting displays a specific iconographic motive of Nativity. It depicts the miraculous birth of Christ as described by St. Bridget of Sweden in her Revelations (Book 7, Chapter 21). Virgin stays in the middle of the landscape and adorates newborn Jesus laying on the white cloth on the ground. On the right side, over the child, there is situated the tree which can refer to Tree of Jesse. Elena Rampi connected this type of Nativity with iconography of Immaculate Conception in which the three of Jesse and miraculous painless birth of Jesus is important aspect. The important fact is, that the painting is older than the church itself, which was finally rebuilt in the first quarter of the 18th century. The painting is dated around 1660 and his motive was copied on the doors of the church tabernacle, on the portrait of Countess Maria Margarethe Waldstein and on the one of the Loreto monstrance. So the motive of the Nativity was therefore highly revered in the surrounding of Loreta and could not be unknown to the women-founders.
The paper is going to answer the question of how they interacted with each other atypically extensive group of women-founder in the milieu of Prague Loreto and the specific iconographic motive of Nativity, which refers to the painless childbirth of Virgin and so to the mystery of Immaculate Conception.