Statues for Catholics

Many Catholics like to pray in front of statues to give them a visual reminder of the one whose intercession they are asking. Displaying a statue in or oustide a home is also a witness to the Catholic Faith and can remind others to pray.

A St. Francis Statue in the Garden

The Catholic family that enjoys tending to flowers may have in their garden a statue of St. Francis of Assisi. Known as the patron saint of the environment and of animals, St. Francis is often depicted in a garden setting or with birds and other animals. This association may be due to his “Canticle of the Creatures,” in which he praised God’s creatures, including Brother Sun and Sister Moon as well as Brothers Wind and Air and Mother Earth.

Mary Statues and Bathtub Madonnas

A statue of Mary on the lawn signals a Catholic home, and travelers on highways and back roads see many. Often the statue stands in a half shell, giving Mary a place of honor. Because the shells resemble cast-iron bathtubs, these lawn shrines have affectionately been called Bathtub Madonnas. In fact, although most of these roadside statues stand in ceramic shells, some actually are encased in discarded bathtubs. These arch or bathtub structures on lawns and gardens are meant to replicate the grotto in France in which St. Bernadette saw Mary.

Fourteen-year-old Bernadette Soubirous was reported to have seen Mary standing in the grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, France, in 1858. After much investigation, the Catholic Church concluded that Bernadette had actually seen and spoken with the Mother of Jesus.

Since the recognition of Bernadette’s vision, churches and schools throughout the world have built their own grottos to house statues of Mary. Father Edward Sorin, founder of the University of Notre Dame, for example, built a replica of the Lourdes grotto on the famous Indiana campus in 1896. The Notre Dame University grotto contains a small piece of stone from the original grotto in Lourdes. Notre Dame alumni fondly recall praying at the grotto during final exam weeks and football weekends.

The Infant of Prague

Catholics recall the infancy and childhood of Christ with manger scenes and stories of the Christ Child in the Temple. One of the most recognizable commemoratives is the Infant of Prague, which shows the Christ Child dressed in the robes of a king.

The original Infant of Prague statue is eighteen inches tall and is made of wax-coated wood. It is believed to have been made in Spain in the sixteenth century. According to legend, Maria Marinquez de Lara purchased the statue in her native Spain and brought it to Prague when she married a Czech nobleman in 1556. In 1587, she gave it to her daughter, Princess Polyxenia of Lobkowitz, on her wedding day. When Princess Polyxenia was widowed in 1628, she gave the statue to the Carmelite Order, and it became known as the Infant of Prague.

As the Thirty Years’ War was causing terror throughout Europe, the Carmelites were forced to flee their monastery and leave the statue behind. Returning in 1637, a priest, Father Cyril, found the statue, but it had been severely damaged. After praying, he was able to raise funds to have it repaired.

In modern times, the Infant of Prague statue has been displayed in the Church of Our Lady of Victory in the Lesser Town of Prague. The Carmelite Sisters of the Child Jesus have been responsible for its care. Among their duties has been the periodic changing of the statue’s costume. Although most replicas of the Infant of Prague show the figure wearing royal robes of red, the Carmelite Sisters have hundreds of costumes that fit the statue. The nuns periodically change its costume so that it is wearing appropriate attire for the liturgical season or feast day. The entire costume collection is displayed in an onsite museum that is visited by thousands of pilgrims each year and is part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.


A 1955 highway tragedy led to the start of the Sacred Heart Auto League and its practice of giving away plastic dashboard statues.

As more cars began traveling American roads, Father Gregory Bezy, a priest of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, worried about travelers’ safety. When his niece and nephew were killed in a traffic accident, he realized that many drivers needed to slow down. He established the Sacred Heart Auto League and asked members to take a pledge to drive prayerfully and carefully.

Father Bezy mailed 4¾-inch plastic statues of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to homes on the mailing list of the Sacred Heart Southern Missions. The Sacred Heart of Jesus statue in a car symbolized membership in this prayerful auto club.

Originally posted 2019-05-17 17:04:54.