Context: Lot 20300, Structure 4, Unit 6,
Stratum/Level 1; Interior of structure.
Context Date Range: c. 1810-1960s
Metal: Copper alloy
Dimensions: 1.2” (31.3 mm) wide,
1.4” (36.4 mm) tall, 0.16” (4 mm) thick
“O MY JESUS HAVE MERCY” over a relief image of Jesus.
Relief of the Madonna and Child
The phrase on this medal may represent a general prayer, but one prayer
in particular, the Scala Sancta devotion, uses this wording repeatedly.
The Scala Sancta or “Holy Stairway” was the stairway that
Jesus ascended on his way to trial at Pontius Pilate’s. The Scala
Sancta is a pilgrimage site where devotees can ascend the steps on their
knees, saying a prayer at each step. In some cases, indulgences are attached
to this devotion. A 28-step prayer was composed in Rome to assist pilgrims
in their prayer. For example, the prayer for Step 1 reads, “O My
Jesus! By the anguish of heart Thou didst experience, on separating from
Thy most holy mother, to go to Thy death, have mercy on me!” Step
2 reads, “O My Jesus! By the confusion Thou didst feel and that
caused Thee to sweat blood in the Garden of Olives, have mercy on me!”
and so on. In the late 19th century, it became popular to build imitations
of the Scala Sancta outside of Rome so that more believers could participate
in the devotion (http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=2288).
Structure 4 has been interpreted as a possible antebellum
slave quarter that was converted into a tenant home after the Civil War.
The site report notes that many free black laborers and tenant farmers
from the area historically walked to the Catholic Church in Bowie for