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18PR510 Willow Grove

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 (

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 Sunday worship.