ST. MARY’S CITY, Md. – Historic St. Mary’s City archaeologists unearthed a Caravaca cross at the St. Mary’s Fort site. (Archaeological remains of the 1634 fort were found in 2019.) The Caravaca cross, or cross of Caravaca, was found in southern Maryland in late October of 2021. Caravaca crosses are a rare find, especially on an English site such as St. Mary’s Fort.
Crosses like the one found were made in Spain during the 17th century and were associated with the city of Caravaca. Caravaca has been a Catholic pilgrimage site for hundreds of years and was named the fifth Holy City in 1998, as the Cathedral there is said to house a piece of the true cross. Some believe that the crosses of Caravaca were often distributed to protect against outbreaks of disease (or commemorate the end of disease outbreaks).
The particular cross at the St. Mary’s Fort Site would have been hung from something, possibly a chain worn around the neck or part of a rosary.
The research department will continue studying various theories in order to understand what this discovery could mean. Since the first known wave of colonists in 1634 were mostly English with a few Irish, there is a question of how the Spanish cross might have arrived in early Maryland. It may have been in the possession of a Catholic English colonist or a Jesuit missionary, or it may have been traded from an indigenous person who acquired it from Spanish colonists in what is today the American south.