The Christ Child
The Iconography
Most sculptures of the Christ Child are produced in the context of a Virgin-and-Child work, but there are a few traditions involving the child alone.

One of the most notable is the Santo Niño de Atocha, widely venerated in Latin countries. The traditional story is that the Christ Child came to the assistance of the besieged town of Atocha, in 13th century Spain, with a basket of food and gourd of water, both of which proved inexhaustible. Images of the Santo Niño have him dressed as a pilgrim, with a basket in one hand and in the other a staff that holds a gourd (example).1

In early modern and modern times, the most common solo image of the Christ Child is the Infant Jesus of Prague. The original is a Spanish statue from the 17th century that was donated to a Carmelite convent in Prague, where still today it is dressed in elaborate garments that are changed regularly. Numerous miracles were ascribed to the statue, and by the 20th century copies of it were common in Catholic churches throughout the world.

Trota José (28-30) surveys several types of Christ Child santos found in the Philippines. The Niño Dormido "depicts the naked Infant Jesus asleep or with eyes half open." The Santo Niño is a standing figure representing the child at two to four years of age, crowned and holding a mappa mundi. The Santo Niño de la Pasion holds symbols of the Passion in his hands, such as the crown of thorns or the nails. A seated type, the Divino Pastor, holds an orb "propped on the left hip." Further examples of Christ Child santos from the Spanish Empire are listed at this section of the website Santos in Oaxaca's Ancient Churches.

Narratives of the enfances of Christ, thought to be originally from Gnostic sources, passed into the Middle Ages by way of the Catholic revisions of the 3rd or 4th century Gospel of Thomas and the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Savior. These gave rise to some medieval artworks, but I have none to show at this time.

Prepared in 2017 by Richard Stracke, Emeritus Professor of English, Augusta University. Revised 2021-04-14.


Christ Child with Cross and Globe, Barcelona (See the description page)




  • The Madonna and Child
  • The film Historia de un Gran Amor ("Story of a Great Love"), a classic of Mexican cinema, takes place against the backdrop of festivals in honor of the Christ Child.


1 Nolasco (89-92, figures 1-10) has a number of examples and a commentary on the relation between the Spanish legend of oppression relieved and the popularity of the Niño in northern Mexico.