Prayer cards aresmall pocket-sized cards that usually depict a saint or symbolic Christian scene, such as Jesus on the cross. The back side of the card has a prayer that the owner of the card is encourage to recite.
While the specific history of prayer cards or holy cards varies by country, and even regions within countries, one is able to make some general statements on the history of holy cards. While the production of holy cards in their current form begins in the 1300s with the introduction of woodcuts, religious images as a form of teaching dates back even further. In 787, the Nicene Council wrote on their importance as a source of information on the life of Christ and other religious figures, as well as Christian lessons. However, very few examples of cards from the 1400s exist, and even cards from the 1500s and 1600s are rare. Clement VI began the trend of always carrying a holy card with the image of Christ on his person, a practice that still continues today. The Jesuits helped popularize the production of holy cards, seeing them as a way to spread the faith and counteract the Protestant Revolution.
The saints have always played a major role in Catholicism. They are often seen as mediators between humans and God, because of their past as a human who was closely linked to God. The lives of the saints are seen as something to emulate, due to their extreme holiness. Holy cards of saints often act as a way to help someone pray for the intercession of that saint. For this reason, holy cards of saints frequently depict them with something related to their patronages or ways of death.