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rosary history from the rosary workshop - a history of the rosary

 stringing the beads of history into place
From: Der Lebendige Rosenkranz
"The Living Rosary" 1865
(Benziger Brothers)
(for larger images, click icons)
(for more information, scroll down)
 Ancients used 10 fingers to count prayers. It is believed by some, a possible source of the traditional decade in rosaries but it is more likely from the eventual division of the 150 Psalms which were chanted by heart by pre Christian sages.
This little chronology, is like stringing the beads of history into place. It opens up two thousand years of time and becomes a wonderful telling of how important it has been for people to keep track of their prayers over the centuries 'so none are left unsaid.'  The bead keeps us connected, not only in prayer but in migration routes over thousands of years.
The guild hopes this journal will grow as we learn more and more about how people pray. How the traditional Rosary prayers (Scriptural) were chosen and the configuration of the Rosary beads as we know them today came into being.  And how the ‘mysteries’ (the Gospel story) became the meditation part of today's Rosary. We have researched carefully and cross referenced the following material.  It has been collected from church documents, tradition and bead resource books. 
The latter holds a wealth of material of why and how beads were made over the centuries. Certain sizes ( such as 7 and 8 mm ) were, at times in history given only to rosary making by law.  They were also strung in units of 59 beads by the beadmakers for the rosary makers (developing the way beads were sold, the now standard strung length of 16 in) - and now and then, we will find some of these old strings of antique beads and smile!
Ten is also the ancient symbol of perfection of the divine order of God. (e.g. Ten Commandments). The word 'bead' comes from the Anglo-Saxon root word, ‘bede’ and it means ‘prayer.’ 'Bidden’ means ‘to pray’.

MARY: painted by St Luke ( carbon dated1st century )

 read more about this ancient 1st c icon:

1st ? 2nd - 3rd - 4th - 5th - 6th - 7th - 8th - 9th - 10th - 11th - 12th
13th - 14th - 15th - 16th - 17th - 18th - 19th - 20th - 21st

(updated 08 2019)

Prayer Beads have been a counting device for almost every religion on earth. Sandstone sculptures of the Sunga and Kushan period show Hindu Sages holding Rosaries (185BC-AD320). Hindus predate Christians by 9 centuries B.C. and desert fathers counted with stones, sticks and notches long before recorded history.
Even the term ‘Rosary’ is not solely Christian nor is the rose symbol. In Tibet and India the Sanskrit word mala means’garden’, ‘garden of flowers’, ‘necklace of beads’. In Hindu, ‘prayer beads’ is ‘japamala’ which translates ‘rose chaplet’. Rosary is to a rose or flower garden as Aviary is to a collection of birds.
Early Christians counted 150 beads (150 Psalms - see more below). The Buddhist and Hindu prayer beads have 108 while some have 66 (563438 BC). Muslim or Islam count prayers on 99. Worry Beads, from the Middle East, have 33, which are still used today.  Greeks still use and call their 100 knots on cords ‘Kombologion’. Historically strung rosaries and chained rosaries have been around for a long time. Cords and knots developed into strung beads and from there grew chained rosaries. 
Today, elegant techniques have been developed in the craft now called 'wire bending' These wire techniques become a vital part of the design of jewelry and rosaries, many of the techniques actually creating the bead itself. This craft is not new as it has its roots in ancient and traditional forms but new designs have flowed from the old.
Of course, no one really knows the origin of the Christian prayer beads.  Some believe it was given to the church fathers by the Muslims or possibly the Buddhist as they migrated or traveled the trade routes about a thousand years ago. 
We understand the Hebrews had a counting system that would have naturally been adopted by the newly formed Christians.  Since the root of our rosary today lies in the Paternoster and counting of the 150 Psalms from the Old Testament, also known as the 'Psalter of David' - one has to consider this is the root and the original source of our rosary today.


'Psalms (s?mz) or Psalter (s?l't?r) , book of the Bible, a collection of 150 hymnic pieces. Since the last centuries B.C., this book has been the chief hymnal of Jews, and subsequently, of Christians', says, which helps one to understand why it was a popular prayer/song for the early Christians. So a psalter is a song of worship that is regulated by scripture. We hear of 'David's Psalter' (David, d.c 970 BC,   the King of ancient Israel), David, it is believed, was the author of many of the 150 Psalms  because of his musical skills. Here lies the foundation of the prayer form that will eventually become the rosary.
The Psalter is also an ancient stringed instrument, developed in the Middle East and  is seen in many forms. The earliest form known was a simple wooden board with gut strings, which ran the entire length of the board and were stretched between pegs. The strings were either plucked with fingers or by running a bow across them like a violin.  It is in the family of chordophones and Zithers. 
Eventually the strings were stretched over a hollow sound box that had sound holes. It was played either on the lap or a table or could be strapped around the neck like a guitar and now comes in a variety of shapes. Also 'psaltery' from the Greek word psalterion, or"harp". This instrument has grown up into many diverse stringed instruments used today including the harp, piano and the violin family.
(We welcome any information you are able to share or confirm. All but about 10% of this material has been cross referenced so we would be deeply grateful for any sources (or corrections)  you are able to supply, thank you.)

*1st - 2nd CENTURY AD*
~ 65 - 150 AD ~ SYRIA ~ The Didache, (sometimes called the 'Little Instruction Book' or the 'Apostolic Catechism For the New Church) is formed. People are encouraged to say the Lord’s Prayer as commanded in Scripture (Matt. 6: 9-13). They are told, ‘Three times in the day, thus pray’. Still honored at Mass and Liturgy of the Hours; Lauds and Vespers.

It also instructs them to baptize ‘In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,’ in living water’. If it is not available they are to use ‘other water,’ ... and if the water is not cold, then warm,’ if neither available, they are to ‘pour water on the head 3 times’ for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

~ 79 AD ~ ITALY ~ Mt. Vesuvius erupts in Naples Bay and swallows Pompeii. Centuries later when excavated, a small home altar is discovered with signs of a cross above it. (as seen in a 20 c book, a photo essay on Pompeii - title unknown)

~155 AD ~ St. Polycarp is allowed to complete his prayers and ‘pronounce the word Amen’ before the fire was lit beneath him.

~~~~~~~~ 1c - 2c NOTES ~~~~~~~~
Along with the Psalter (150 Psalms) came words that were rooted in the customs and traditions of the Old Testament into the newly formed Christian prayer communities.  We see in the New Testament and the Didache how the Amen, the Sign of the Cross and the Apostles Creed are being incorporated into the prayers of the faithful in to what will eventually be the rosary as we know it today. The formation of the Eucharistic celebration or Mass as outlined in the Road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-36) is also present and was being celebrated from the 1st century on in 'titular' homes. From here it will grow over the centuries.

All quotes are taken from the NAB. (Matthew 6:9): Jesus prefaces it:
  8.... Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. 
9 "This is how you are to pray:
 (Our Father) To the early monks and clergy, the most important part of the liturgical prayer was the 150 Psalms or Psalter. Many of the Psalms are songs of praise and thanksgiving. Most of the laity could not read so they chanted 150 'Our Fathers' instead of the 5 books which made up the Psalms.  This prayer is said on the 6 large beads of the rosary and is from Scripture. It has not basically changed over the centuries although you will recognize minor differences used today. 
 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,  10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. 
 Give us today our daily bread; 12 and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; 
13 and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.

(Hail Mary)  Slowly the 150 Paternosters were replaced by 150 Ave's, both of which were totally scriptural in the beginning. The tradition of the five books of Psalms carried over after a time and the Ave's were broken up into decades with the Our Father as dividers. Prayers of the faithful were added creating the petition.  The Hail Mary is said on the 53 small beads and like the Our Father, is broken down into two parts: 
1. (Gabriel's salutation to Mary at the Annunciation: 
(Luke 1:28). Mary was added to identify. The angel called her 'full of grace'.) 
 1. 'Hail (Mary) full of grace, the Lord is with thee...' 
2. 'Blessed art thou among women,  blessed is the fruit of thy womb, (Jesus).' 
2. Elizabeth's greeting at the Visitation when she sees Mary: (Luke 1:42). 
The addition of the name of Jesus becomes part of the custom for many from the year 600 
and is officially added during the 14th century.. 
1. Comes from the Council of Ephesus in 431 to explain term '
Theotokos', (God bearer) or Mother of God, Jesus being part of the triune God.
Heretics of the time believe Mary  is the mother of Christ, not God. The people of Ephesus rioted, 
carrying torches into the streets and shouting, 
 1. Holy Mary, Mother of God 
2. 'Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners....'
..... now and at the hour of our death.'
 It is believed this part of the prayer came into common usage during the 16th century. 
Later, the prayer was completed with 'now and at the hour of our death'

From the Hebrew verb ‘aman’ which means ‘to confirm’ or ‘strengthen’
 amen     confirm     strengthen
 dates back to Old Testament times as a liturgical response in the synagogue.  Used by Christ, 
(also‘verily’or ‘truly’), in the New Testament, it was carried into the 
Christian Liturgy as a response and an ending to prayer.
Tertullianwrites,‘... we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross’
 In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, amen
 which stems from the Old Testament (Ezekial 9:4) comments on marking an X on the foreheads of the innocent 
and (Revelations 7:3, 9:4 and 14:1) the seal on the forehead of the chosen 
and is seen as a life giving symbol. (See Exodus 17:9-14)

Tradition tells us it is the teaching of the Apostles themselves
 I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell. On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,the holy catholic and apostolic Church, the communion of saints,the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
 and is an overview of the Christian faith. It is believed to be part of the baptismal prayer 
or rite of new Christians since the beginning. The earliest written form known
is Tertullian in 200 ad. (The present form dates before 700 ad.)

~ 211 AD ~  Tertullian ~  (re the sign of the cross) has recognized that it is common practice that Christians seldom do anything of importance without making the sign of the cross. (De Corona (3:2), written around AD 211). By 230 AD Tertullian writes that baptism candidates are marked with a sign of the cross on their foreheads. ‘... we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross’ which stems from the Old Testament (Ezekial 9:4) This would be during their formation or training as catechumens. The earliest existing form of the Apostles Creed also comes from Tertullian during this period.

~ 235 AD - MOST ANCIENT PRAYER TO OUR LADY ~  Found in a book of prayers to Mary, published in 1921, 'The Key of Heaven' quoting from a fledgling church still in the throes of Roman persecution and dated 235 AD.  (see note below)

~ 248 AD ~ NORTH AFRICA ~ Cyprian is elected Bishop of Carthage. In an early church document he warns the people that they are to respect the command of God by saying the Paternoster (Lord’s Prayer) lest you‘establish your own tradition’.

~ 251-356 AD ~ EGYPT ~ St. Anthony the Great is Founder of Christian monasticism. He was also given credit for bringing the Byzantine Rosary into the church by knotting a woolen cord for the counting of prayers. On the death of his wealthy parents, he inherited all at 20. Inspired by the Apostles and the words  "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell all thou hast"he gave his property away and devoted his life to religious exercises. (For more, see New Advent)

 ~~~~~~~~ 3c NOTES ~~~~~~~~


 'We fly to your patronage, O Holy Mother of God; despise not our petitions in our necessities,  but deliver us always from all danger,  O glorious and blessed Virgin.  Amen'. 
(see above)  (Another original copy of this prayer was found in 1917 written on Egyptian papyrus. This prayer again spread from Egypt where Joseph and Mary had fled with Jesus to Europe and other parts of the Christian World.) Believed to be earliest written prayer to Mary.

~ 300s ~ GEORGIA ~ With her own wooden cross in her hands, St Nino blessed the Queen. She made the sign of the cross by touching her with it on her head, feet, and each shoulder. Immediately, this life giving symbol triggers a miracle. According to Studia Biblica, "she was cured."

~ 300s ~ EGYPT ~ The mumified remains of St Thais a legendary courtesan along with an ascetic Serapion found and exhibited in the early 1900s confirmed the following.  Along with iron instruments of penance there was a cribbage board like apparatus pierced with holes.  It was called a 'compte-priere' - a counter of prayers. St Thais was a public sinner in Egypt in the 300s who was converted by St. Paphnutius - (See October 8 Butlers Lives of the Saints, also New Advent - St Thais)

~ 330 AD ~ TURKEY ~ Constantine is taken with Christianity after winning a battle where a cross in the sky spoke to him. It becomes the official religion of the empire. He  re-names the small town of Byzantium, Constantinople. He sends his mother, St Helen'  to Jerusalem to find the true cross. This Christian influence is reflected by the wearing of the cross and molded glass amulets representing droplets of Christ's blood and other symbols of the Christians such as 'fish, doves and faees of Christ' (see pg 70 of HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr Dubin)

~ 331AD ~ TURKEY ~ Constantinople becomes the seat of the Roman Empire and the people come on pilgrimages from North Africa, Spain, Denmark, and other far away places. From all this wealth there are signs of the Church beginning to discourage the wearing of jewelry, and 'beads will be increasingly limited to rosaries.'  (see pg.195 HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr Dubin)

~ 341AD ~ EGYPT ~ Early records state (Abbot) Paul of Thebes (c. 234 - 347), a hermit, who was simply 'prayingin the manner old and beyond memory', said his 300 daily Paternosters by moving pre-counted pebbles from one pile to another.

~ 354 - 430 ~ HIPPO ~ St Augustine admonished the faithful, 'God is a circle whose center is everywhere'  He said, '[returning] within yourself, for it is the inward man that truth dwells'  (See more information pg 81 in HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr Dubin) Prayer Beads were not known to be circular during his life time but it speaks clearly to the rosaries of today that are)

~ 387AD ~ SCOTLAND ~ St Patrick is born near Dumbarton (died at Saul, Downpatrick, Ireland, 17 March, 461)

 ~~~~~~~~ 4c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

The desert hermits develop a prayer technique that involves the whole body.  Rhythmic physical movements are used as they pray. Eventually this is brought into Ireland by the Monks.
Latter part of this century, the OUR FATHER will become an official part of the Mass.  St. Benedict plants a monastic rose garden called a 'Rosary'.  In his Holy Rule, he teaches the desert monks to pray the 150 Psalms every day. He arranges the Psalms so that all 150  of the Psalter of David are recited in 7 days. This becomes the Divine Office (Breviary) that priests and religious will recited every day for centuries.

~ 400s AD ~ IRELAND ~ St. Patrick ( Feast day: March 17),  Patron of Ireland, had a devotion to the Holy Cross and a love of Our Blessed Lady.  He recited daily each of the 150 Psalms of David and the Apocalypse as well as other hymns and encourages the monks to do the same.  (It is said that if they started to fall asleep, they would stand barefoot in cold water to stay awake until they were finished).  He also taught them to make the Sign of the Cross 100 times in the morning and 100 times at night. He develops the visual understanding of the trinity by using the trifold leaf of the shamrock and the division of the Psalter into 3 sections called 'na tri coicat'.(three fifties). The Irish monks would soon bring in song or chanting back into the Psalms. In Malory's Morte de Arthur it is stated that there are 150 Knights of the Round Table - a carry over of the Celtic background. (pg 34 The Rose Garden Game).

~ 430 AD ~ The prayer and the bead is connecting. They are mentioned by St. Augustine and adopted into the church as a counting device but have little resemblance to the Rosary of today. He is quoted as saying that when we devoutly say the Our Father, Our venial sins are forgiven’.

~ 431 AD ~ TURKEY ~ The Council of Ephesus declares Mary as Theotokos (God-bearer). This is in response to heretics of the time who say Mary is, ‘Mother of Christ,’ not God. Tradition tells us the people of Ephesus riot. Taking to the streets and carrying torches they shout, ‘Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners ...’

~ 500s ~ IRELAND ~ St. Columba brought 'praye without ceasing' (1Thess 5:17) into his rule for the monks in Ireland. Along with St Gall they brought to the Continent the custom of using the fifties for penance and in praying for the dead. They founded monasteries in Riechenau on Lake Constance. Reichenau will become known as a center for rosarymaking in Germany.

~ 523d - IRELAND - St Bridgit of Kildare aided her prayers using a small string of little wooden or stone beads such as was 'customary among hermits' (p35 The Rose-Garden Game)

~ 550s ~ WALES ~ St David brings country to the Christian faith and the crucifix becomes a symbol to the people.

 ~~~~~~~~ 6c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

During this century the Angelic Salutation (Lk 1:28) and Elizabeth's greeting (Lk 1:42) are beginning to be used as a single formula in the ancient liturgies.  Within the next 100 years it will be seen in the Roman collection of prayers (offertory text - Feast of the Annunciation and 4th sunday of Advent) in the 7th century.
 Incense is introduced into the liturgy as part of the church service. (Prayer rising like incense to God).

~ 600s ~ IRELAND ~Monks are keeping track of the Psalter (150 Psalms) on knotted cords. Those, generally the laity, who cannot read (Latin) say the Divine Office by setting 150 knots on a cord and use them to chant the Paternoster, which is also known as the ‘poor man’s breviary’.

~ 600s ~ RUSSIA ~ It is recorded that the Byzantine Church has embraced a knotted woolen prayer cord called a 'Chotki' chaplet). This Byzantine Rosary has varying numbers of knots (33-100 or 300, some with larger knot at the beginning of each decade). The mantra or prayer said on each knot varies but generally it is, 'Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner' or 'O God, be merciful to me a sinner'Adapted from the parable of the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14), and the tax collector, in which the latter was 'justified through humility'. It is also know as the Jesus Prayer.

~ 600s ~ CONTINENTAL EUROPE ~ People are beginning to use the knots to count 150 ‘Ave’s’, but only saying the Angel’s greeting,Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you.’ (Elizabeth’s greeting will become more universally used in the 12th century.)

~ 659 AD ~ BELGIUM ~ The Abbess Gertrude of Nivelles is discovered with fragments of prayer beads in her tomb. It seems to be custom as many from this period on are found buried during this time with beads wrapped around their fingers. 

~ 665 AD ~ IRELAND ~ Saint Fechin of Fore  (Naomh F?ch?n Fabhar). a native of Connaught, settled at Fore in Westmeath as a hermit. Many followed him because of his example.  His little hermatage became a monastery with Fechin as the abbot.  It is said, 'he hew a bluff of solid rock to bring water to the mill he built so the monks could grind their grain.' He also founded a monastery near Galway on the island of Immagh, where they converted many to the faith.  Each night he would recite the entire Psalter of 150 Psalms. (see MAGNIFICAT, January 20 2003.)

 ~~~~~~~~ 7c NOTES ~~~~~~~~
Jewelry is now considered a pagan custom, discouraged by the church. Jet, ivory, coral, precious metals and gemstones are primarily used for prayer beads.

~ 700s ~ The Apostles Creed is formed as we know it now. People pray the Psalter (150 Psalms) for the souls of deceased and there is a new written guide or rule book regarding penitents and how many Paters are to be said depending on sins confessed. Strings of beads helped the penitent to count. Many wear their beads as a sign of their sorrow.

~ 782 AD ~ It is traditional for the monks of St. Apollinaris to say 300 Kyrie Eleisons (Lord have mercy), Christe Eleison (Christ have mercy) twice a day in gratitude for the pope’s benefactors. (see the privilege of Hadrian I, A.D. 782, in Jaffe-L?wenfeld, n. 2437), suggesting that a counting apparatus of some kind would be  necessary to keep track of prayers.. (for more information see New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia)

 ~~~~~~~~ 8c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

Leather thongs, found in European grave sites, are sewn into a circle. Bone rings are aligned and sewn into place like scales on the thong.  As prayers are counted the rings are turned over. Still in use as late as the 19th century in Southern Germany. St Jerome is praying one of these rosaries in the painting, 'St Jerome in the Desert" by Bono da Ferrara c 1440. (National Gallery - London). Also see below (1430 - 1500) Friedrich Herlin :

~ 800s ~ GERMANY ~ Reichenau and Saint Gallen (Switzerland) the rule of the Fifties and the triple Psalter were still in practice and in a compact between the two - offer Mass and 50 Psalms for each deceased brother. This practice was also custom in Canterbury and Fulda.

*10th CENTURY*
150 PSALMS - 150 BEADS
~ 900s ~ IRELAND AD ~  (800-900 AD) - Quoting Catholic Apologetics: 'Historians trace the origin of the Rosary back to ninth century Ireland. Today, as then, the 150 Psalms of the Bible, The Book of Psalms of King David, were an important form of monastic prayer. Monks and clergy recited or chanted the Psalms as a major source of hourly worship. People living near the monasteries realized the beauty of this devotion. But unable to read or memorize the lengthy Psalms, the people were unable to adapt this form of prayer for their use.' 

An Irish monk suggested to the people around the monastery that they might pray a series of 150 Our Fathers in place of the 150 Psalms. At first, pebbles were carried in a pouch to count the 150 Our Fathers; later ropes with 150 or 50 (1/3 of 150) knots were used. Eventually string with 50 pieces of wood was used. 

Next the Angelic Salutation (Lk 1:28) was added. St. Peter Damian (d. 1072) was the first to mention this form of prayer. Soon the Angelic Salutation replaced the 50 Our Fathers. 

Some medieval theologians considered the 150 Psalms to be veiled mysteries about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. They began to compose "Psalters of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" - 150 praises in honor of Jesus. Soon psalters devoted to 150 praises of Mary were composed. When a psalter of 150 praises in Mary's honor numbered 50 instead of 150, it was called a rosarium, or bouquet. (for more see:

*11th CENTURY8
~ 1007 AD ~ ITALY ~ St. Peter Damian (1007-1072), a Camaldolese monk (who later became a cardinal / Doctor of the Church), called the Hail Mary the 'angelic'or'evangelical, prayer'and recommended it.  Before the 11th century, it was not universally  a popular prayer. But some monastic communities began the practice of reciting the twofold salutation as part of their prayers. (See Catholic Culture)

~ 1014 AD ~ GERMANY ~ Blessed Herman is born a cripple - deformed from birth. (1014 - 1054) The monks at the Abbey of Reichenau take care of him from birth. He will become a Benedictine monk in 1034 at the age of 20. He will make musical instruments and when he becomes blind, he will write hymns.   The Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen) will be his best known.  He knows well the suffering - as he writes ‘…to you we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears’  (is believed he suffered from cerebral palsy, a cleft palate and spina bifida). It will be recited as a standard prayer at the conclusion of the rosary centuries later. (His feast day is 25 September.)

~ 1040 AD ~ EUROPE ~ Wooden and clay beads are replacing knotted cords among the people in many regions of Europe.

~ 1075 AD ~ENGLAND ~ Countess Godgifu (Lady Godiva) wife of Leofric, wills her beads to the monks at the Monastery in Coventry, to be hung on the statue of 'Our Layde of Coventry' (Virgin Mary) after her death. It is described as a  'A circlet of gems which she had threaded on a string in order that by fingering them one by one, as she successively recited her prayers, she might not fall short of the exact number".  (pg 88 The History of Beads - Lois Sherr Dubin)

~ 1088 AD ~ ITALY - Cardinal Bishop Odo of Siliac, is elected Pope Urban II.  (during the Synod of Bishops), he required the clergy to make sure that not only was the Creed and the Pater being recited but to add the Ave.  This created a new interest and soon it is being included in the councils of many other countries to do the same.  It becomes very very popular into the next century.

~ 1096 AD ~ IRELAND ~ In the ‘Ancient Customs of Cluny’, it says that it is common for priests to offer Mass and the Laity to say 50 Psalms or repeat the Paternoster 50 times for ‘brothers far and away’.

 ~~~~~~~~ 10c NOTES  ~~~~~~~~

 Regionally, the Ave prayer is beginning to replace the Paternoster. The Paternoster knots and beads are being integrated into a structural framework by spacing 150 Ave’s into decades or groups of 10. It is believed this prayer to Mary is imitating God’s love for her.
In ‘The Prayer Book of King Henry’ one is directed to mark ‘the four sides of the body’. Over the centuries there are many variations of sealing ones self with the cross (i.e.: forehead or brow only) all of which are taken very seriously.

*12th CENTURY*

~ 1109 AD ~ ENGLAND ~ St. Amselm of Canterury makes a 'Rosary'or 'Rosarium' to honor of Mary. The prayers are composed of Psalms praising her and is fashioned after the traditional 150 'Psalms of David'

~ 1100s ~ Paternoster Cord ~ It is becoming more common to see people carry a ‘Paternoster cord’ (50 count or ‘fifties’ to be repeated 3 times instead of traditional longer strand of 150 (called ‘Na-tri-coicat’). By the second half of the century, the full scriptural half of the Ave is becoming a formula of prayer, adding‘Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.’ (The petition or second half is still not a formal part of prayer on beads.)

~ 1128 AD ~ The Knights Templar ~  (known for protecting pilgrims) if unable to attend the choir are to repeat the Lord’s Prayer (normally sung) 57 times. When one of the bretheren dies, they say the Pater Noster 100 times a day for 7 days. (This is called two fifties’.)

~ 1140 AD ~A contemporary of St. Albert’s, wrote how he (Albert), bent his knees in prayer 100 times a day and prostrated himself raising his body by his fingers and toes’ 50 times while repeating the Annunciation part of the Hail Mary. There are general instructions for various physical exercises or signs of devotion while praying. It is a familiar custom during this century.

~ 1160 AD ~ITALY ~ Palermo - Saint Rosalia (Virgin - 1132 - 1166), a relative of Emperor Charlemagne, became a hermit in love of Jesus as a young girl.  In 1625, her remains would be accidentally found by a hunter in the cave on Mt Palermo where she lived.  She was found 'witha little string of little beads that ended in a cross'. Palermo was suffering under a terrible epidemic of the plague in 1625.  Her remains were carried through the city and the plague disappeared that day. In thanksgiving, Palermo celebrates this event for 3 days, 13 to the 15th of July. It is said she would weave garlands of mountain flowers and wild roses, offering them to the Lord as she hung them on a terra cotta crucifix.

~ 1172 ~ ENGLAND ~ It is told that an English Saint whose name is lost, counted prayers on pebbles / stones kept in a pouch.

 ~~~~~~~~ 12c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

During the 12th through 15th century, the varied concepts and designs  of the rosary thorughout Europe will take on major changes, converging on a more uniform design for prayer.
During the Middle English Period (ca 1100 A.D. - 1500 A.D.) the Pater bead that divided the decades, was often more ornate than the Ave beads.  It was called the 'gaudi' or 'gaude' bead  because of this. Gaud comes from the word  which means Joy (gaudium:  joy, gladness - Gaudete Sunday during Advent). It is also the root for gaudy as many rosaries are becoming very ornate, losing their original purpose of counting prayers and becoming adornment.

*13th CENTURY*
~ 1208 AD ~ FRANCE ~ According to tradition, The Blessed Lady appears to St. Dominic Guzman (1170 - 1221)  with a Rosary in her hand, in response to his prayers to her for help during the Albigensian heresy which is destroying Christendom in the 12th and 13th centuries. She teaches him how pray the Rosary. (It is known that Marys Psalter predated St Dominic.) Mary's' Psalter predated the Spanish Saint but according to Fr Ennio Staid a Dominican Theologian, St Dominic, the founder of the Dominican Order became its principal promoter along with his brothers. (See 14c woodcut below)

A contemporary of St. Francis, he is deeply loved as a man of God and for his good works which included encouraging all to pray the Rosary for the conversion of sinners and those who had left the faith. He is credited with the ‘Militia of Jesus Christ’ in which members recited the Psalter of Our Lady daily.

~ 1213 AD ~FRANCE ~ A crucial battle of Muret is victorious for the Christian army because of recitation of the Rosary by the soldiers under the instruction of St Dominic.

~ 1216 AD ~FRANCE ~ The Dominican order is confirmed, growing to 30,000 within 15 years after Dominic's death. 5 years after his death there are 90 convents. Today, this order carries on the tradition of the Rosary in a powerful way.

~ 1223 AD ~FRANCE ~ Blessed Romee, companion of Dominic, is documented to have died with a little knotted cord, held tightly in his hands, ‘on which he said his ‘Ave’s’.

~ 1244 AD ~ ITALY  ~ From 1233 to 1244 A group of seven men, who had devoted themselves to the 'Holy Mother of God' were gathered in prayer when Mary appears to them asking the to retire from the world and dedicate themselves to prayer and service to God which they did. they adopted the religious habit of the Dominicans and the rule of Augustine. They call themselves the  Servites. (By the 14th cnetury they had over 100 convents throughout Europe, India, and Crete. The Servite Rosary (Rosary of the Seven Sorrows) was formed and prayed as a regular devotion.

~ 1254 - 1325 AD ~ ITALY ~ Venetian traveler Marco Polo, on trip to visit the court of Kublai Khan, relates how the king of Malabar, wore a silken thread around his neck with104 faire pearls as beads to number his prayers said daily’. (See more in New Advent - Catholic Encyclopedia)

~ 1259 AD ~ ITALY ~ After Dominics death, Dominicans in Piacenza establish the ‘Confraternity of Prayer’

~ 1261 AD ~ FRANCE ~ Rosaries are becoming so elegant with their gold and silver that the Dominicans are forbidding lay brothers to ‘give themselves airs’by using excessively grand beads in their prayer beads. (see page 90 - HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr). Mediterranean and Italian Coral has become the choice bead for rosaries by the wealthy and is seen more and more in portraits of the rich and famous..

~ 1263 AD ~ Saint Bonaventure, Minister General of the Franciscan Order, encourages liturgical devotion to honor the mystery of the Visitation.

~ 1261-64 AD ~ ITALY ~ It is believed that Pope Urban IV is the one who added the name of 'Jesus' to the Angelic Salutation during this century.

~ 1268 AD ~ FRANCE ~ Stephen Boyleau's, "Livre des m?tiers" (Book of the Trades) he describes the 4 guilds of ‘Paten?triers’ in Paris.

~ 1279 AD ~ BAVARIA ~ Records indicate good business as 'Bavarian communities are sending men to Venice to purchase glass canes for Paternoster Beads for rosaries.' (see page 113 - HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr)

~ 1292 AD ~ ITALY ~ Venetian glass beadmakers are moved to an island in the lagoon (Murano) as the city fathers were fearful the glass furnaces would catch Venice on fire. This also gave the bead makers better control over their secret recipes for making glass cane to create their 'millefiore' beads. Venice was the main supplier and exporter of glass beads for rosary making.  In the mid 1400s  the bead industry moved to Bohemia (Czechoslovakia),  hurting the Venetian glassmaking industry.

 ~~~~~~~~ 13c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

The Psalter of Our Lady becomes the prayer as people pray 150 Ave’s. The term Rosary is applied. The praying of the Hail Mary spreads to the west. Reflection on the Annunciation and Mary was basically the Antiphon used during the 4th week of Advent through the 7th century.  Not included at this time is the second half,  'Holy Mary Mother of God, Pray for us Sinner ...',   and neither is the name of Jesus used.
During this century and into the next, the 50 Ave’s are said along with psalm verses or other phrases that spoke of Jesus’ life. It is generally known as the ‘rosarium’ or rose garden.  In the 13th Century, St. Bonaventure divides his 150 Marian Psalms into three groups. The first 50 begins with 'Ave', Group two with 'Salve' and the third group of 50 with the word 'Gaude'. These Rosaries of praise are called 'Our Lady's Psalter.'
 By the 13th century, makers of prayer beads, called ‘Paternosters’, are forming craft guilds that specialize in beads of a particular material: i.e. they only work in amber or precious stones, metal or glass. Most common are wood and glass. (for more information see pg 90 of HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr). A street in London is still named ‘Paternoster Row’ and is where many guilds gathered and worked.
 A legend is traveling throughout Europe telling of Mary taking rosebuds from the lips of a young monk as he recited the Ave’s. She wove them into a garland and placed it upon her head. This Rosary prayer is called ‘pneums’.

*14th CENTURY*
~ 1347 AD ~ NEWFOUNDLAND ~ First documented glass bead is excavated in North America. Found in a Viking colony, the clear round bead is believed to be part of prayer beads worn by a Viking woman. (See pg 271 THE HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr Dubin)

~ 1350s AD ~TUNISIA - ITALY ~ coral is highly prized for prayer beads.

~ 1350s AD ~ GERMANY ~ An Augustinian canon from Osnabruck outlaws the wearing of coral rosaries around the neck. They are now being worn in some areas as both adornment and devotion.

~ 1373 AD ~ EUROPE ~  Earliest recorded information on a flower named for Mary, Marigolds (Saint Mary’s Golds) was set into an herbal recipe to destroy pestilence.

~ 1376 AD ~ EUROPE ~ Between 1376 and 1417 several popes opposed one another creating a Schism. It involved the whole church and unity was to be found in the praying of the rosary, which still was not uniform in count or prayer. The Dominicans and Benedictines along with their brotherhoods encouraged prayer and by the end of the 15c, there was also more unity in the prayer and bead sequence. (See pg 141 of GLASS BEADS FROM EUROPE by Sibylle Jargstorf)

~ 1380 AD ~ FRANCE ~ Royal inventories list Rosaries of enameled gold encrusted with jewels. One inventory of King Charles V reads, ‘nineteen Rosaries made of ‘rose tinted amber and coral with pearls for markers’.There were gold beads, Jet beads with eleven gold crosses and black coral and pearls alternating with silver. There were also gold beads of Damascus work (metal wire laid on top of metal or in this case may suggest a type of filigree) which were filled with musk.’ (see page 90 - HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr Dubin)

 ~~~~~~~~ 14 c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

Until about the end of the 15c, there were many counts used for prayers on beads. One was called the 'Crown' which did not have a designated count of beads and was seen in old paintings as an open ended or as a ring of beads (usually in favored coral). A short open crown became very popular with men and thus the name, 'Cavaliersbetten' (men's praying). Sibylle Jargstorf lists 3 versions of the 'Crown' in GLASS BEADS FROM EUROPE. Short: 10 to 25 beads, Medium: 26 - 50 beads and Long: (Paternoster or Chaplet) with 150 beads, which she points out was traditionally worn as a necklace.

This German woodcut shows the legend of Mary giving St Dominic the rosary. Note the count of beads and configuration in their hands not the rosary as we know today. But has two different sizes, Aves and Paters or 'Gauds'.
The rosary frame around the figures is much more familiar in count. The heart, 2 pierced hands and 2 pierced feet used as Paters tells the story of the Crucifixion of Christ. Images like this were used to educate a non reading public. 
It is believed different stones have different healing powers.  Coral is especially favored by people during this period because [they believed] that coral had 'special healing properties,' and helped with blood circulation problems. These rosaries were looked on as strengthening ones emotions,' and helped one to have a more 'loving and harmonious nature.' It was also considered to 'influence one spiritually and intuitively' symbolizing the teaching thereof. ). Medieval Cordoba is now famous for its prayer beads of gold.
The pomander beads we now see in museums are usually gold with enamel designs. Some are set with jewels and shaped in natural forms such as flowers, hearts and balls. Many believe pomander beads, often filled with musk, cloves and myrrh will protect the wearer from the plague. (for more information see pg 90 of HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr Dubin).  Others believe the aroma is like the ‘sweet incense of prayer rising to heaven’ and is given to God.  The circle or crown of beads will eventually be seen as similar to a wedding ring or God never ending. Women also enjoy adding small trinkets such as figurines, images and gemstones to their rosaries along with the scented dried fruit and flowers.

*15th CENTURY*
~ 1408 AD ~ In the inventory of The Princess of Orleans, Valois was entered a rosary of amethysts and jasper with a stud (bouton) of pearls, another of jet with nine bells (dandins) of gold and a jewel of nine pearls as a pendant, and another again of jet with 9 gold markers and a gold figurine of St. Christopher attached. (see p354 The Collection of Rosaries in the US Museum - 1909)

~ 1410 AD ~ A Carthusian from Cologne, Dominic of Prussia forms a Marian Psalter for the faithful which has only 50 Aves. Highly received, it grew in popularity through the 15c. Depending on the region, many bible references were added depending on popular devotions. Upwards of 300 were added in some areas.

~ 1420 ~ ‘The Merode Altar Piece’, a Triptych from the Cloisters collection (Metropolitan Museum of Art, N.Y.), pictures a woman and man kneeling before an open door. The woman, looking down, is holding a long string of coral prayer beads with a large silver bead at each end. 

~ 1427 AD ~ ITALY ~ A sermon, which included "Ave Maria Sancta Maria, mater Dei, ora pro nobis" (Hail Mary, Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us")  by St. Bernard of Sienna was preached. Interest in this prayer  began to grow into the next century.

~ 1439 AD ~ BELGIUM ~ Painting by Jan Van Eyk ‘The Virgin of the Fountain’ pictures the baby Christ in Mary’s arms holding coral prayer beads. This, like the one above is a string not a circle. (Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp)

~ 1450’s ~BOHEMIA ~ Craftsmen begin to make their own glass beads, mostly for prayer beads, instead of importing glass canes from Venetian merchants, hurting the exports of Venetian glass in Europe.

~ 1422 ~ The Franciscan Crown, also known as the Franciscan Rosary is officially established. (developed in the latter part of the 15th c).  It consists of 7 decades (Hail Mary's) instead of 5 and meditates on the 7 Joys of Mary in the life of her son, Jesus. The Franciscans are also credited for the latter part of the Ave, (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death). In 1263, Saint Bonaventure, Minister General of the Order, encouraged liturgical devotion honoring the mystery of the Visitation.

~ 1460 AD ~Blessed Alanus de Rupe ~ preaches the ‘Dominican Rosary' which is divided up into three groups of 50 beads and three groups of mysteries (Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection). It is called the 'Marian Psalter.' The Paternoster is still being recited by others.

~ 1470 AD ~ Blessed Alanus encourages people to pray in groups. This forever changes the way people use the Rosary in prayer.

~ 1475 AD ~ GERMANY ~ Cologne is miraculously saved from an attack by the Burgundian Troops. The credit for the miracle was given to the Dominican Prior of the city, Jacob Springer who encouraged the prayer of the Psalter of Our Lady. Thus the Confraternity of the Rosary was set into place with the celebration of a Pontifical Mass held at the Dominican Church of St. Andreas in Cologne.

~ 1483 AD ~ Use of the second part of the Ave 'Holy Mary... and the use of the name Jesus in the first part are becoming more universally used.

~ 1483 AD ~ ULM ~ The first picture rosary is published in Ulm by Conrad Dinckmut. This manual, 'Our Lady's Psalter', shows 3 woodcuts, one for each of the 3 mysteries of the rosary. Each shows five medallions. The Joyful Mysteries are the 'White Rosary' the Sorrowful Mysteries, the 'Red Rosary' and the glorious - 'Gold Rosary'. It becomes so popular that it had been printed in at least 7 editions by 1503. Visual aids for religious devotions are becoming very popular. 

~ 1484 AD ~NETHERLANDS ~ A rosary manual encouraged the reader, 'Those who cannot read should look at the illustrations while repeating the Ave Maria and think of the life and passion of Our Lord'. 

~ 1485 AD ~ GERMANY ~ The municipal council of Regensburg decreed that none should possess more than three or four rosaries and that these should not exceed the value of 10 gulden. (three fat oxen could be purchased for 12 gulden at that time)

~ 1489 AD ~ A book now lists the ‘Mysteries’ in almost the same way they are written today. There is a growing sense of needing more than the prayer mantra or repeated prayer and may be 'Our Lady's Psalter' as it travels to other areas of Europe. (see 1483 insert above). 

~ 1495 AD ~ ITALY ~ Only three years after Columbus lands in the new world, Pope Alexander VI urges the faithful to pray the Rosary.

 ~~~~~~~~15c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

During this century, People openly carried beads as a sign of penance. Pilgrims on their way to holy sites such as shrines and churches including holy places in Rome wear beads around their waist to denoted they are members of a religious confraternity or third order. The Knights of St. John (12c) adopt the rosary as a part of their 'uniform' for laity as they were required by their constitution to say 150 Paters every day. If the beads had been touched to a relic or had been worn by a person of sanctity they were believed to hold miraculous powers and healing virtues.
Nuns are not allowed to wear Rosaries around their necks and male religious (monks and friars) are prohibited from having Rosaries of precious stones such as coral, amber and crystal. Local customs kept variety interesting. Sumptuary laws are always being enacted and broken. Over the centuries we see extravagances being controlled by various monastic and municipal laws. These are especially prevalent with the religious in regard to the wearing of Rosaries during this time.

This German woodcut from the 15th century images a paternoster maker cutting stones into beads.Glass beads would become more popular as prayer beads at a later date. 
(Gloria Patri or the lesser doxology) is becoming a part of the prayer. It has been the common formula for Christians and has not changed. Prayer beads are more universally being called ‘Rosaries’. Rose gardens and garlands are becoming more and more associated with Virgin Mary and many are beginning to meditate on the life of Mary while reciting the Ave beads.
 During this century, Marigolds are named after Mary. Today, at the end of October into November the market places Mexico and other Latin American countries are filled with Marigolds. The petals are strewn to make a pathway into the home or workplace to the altar or ‘offrenda’ (for the dead) which is heavily decorated with them. (Dia de los Muertos or ‘Days of the Dead’: All Hallows-Eve’ All Saints and All Souls Day). During this time, mortals are reminded that heaven and earth are joined and that Mary intercedes. Adding to Marys Garden of many flowers named after her besides the rose. (Rosaries are strung with fresh Marigolds for Aves and Roses).
 Mass production of Rosaries begins making it possible to have less expensive Rosaries of bone, wood, glass, jet and metals like iron, lead and pewter instead of precious metals and stones.
 In the Musee National du Louvre, (Paris) there are small prayer beads, possibly a bracelet (?) of 10 hollow agate beads all of which open to reveal a scene in enameled gold. A sign of extravagance to many, to others as sign of giving God back the best one can craft.
 Another word for the Rosary at this time is ‘florilegium’. These prayers, 50 to 150, are little poems or thoughts about Mary that rhyme with ‘Ave’. The Hail Mary is then repeated after each.

 *16th CENTURY*
~ 1514 AD ~ The widow of Cesare Borgia, duke of Valentinois (Valence), Charlotte d’Albret, has Rosaries of enameled pierced-gold beads for holding scent. (see pg 90 HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr)

~ 1521 AD ~ Alberto da Castello, a Dominican, began to simplify the rosary and is credited with 15 evangelical passages for meditation.  This included a short prayer at the end of each Hail Mary.

~ 1521 - 24 AD ~ GERMANY ~ Tilman Riemenschneider - a master woodcarver creates the magnificent 'Madonna im Rosenkranz' showing Mary holding the Christ child and surrounded by a wreath of 50 flowers (Aves) divided by 5 larger flowers (Paters) as a  teaching aid for those who could not read to pray the rosary. See image below.

~ 1530 - 1540 AD ~ GERMANY ~ A chronicle from the city of Biberach relates that everyone ‘carries a Paternoster’or is taken to be non Christian. Carrying a rosary wrapped around one’s hand or upper arm is considered a sign of respectability. 'It was a badge of religion.' (see pg 90 - HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr Dubin) 


These two German woodcuts from the 16c show women of position or wealth, possibly royalty wearing very ornate rosaries. This custom was a sign of of ones faith as if you did not, you were considered to be a non Christian. But for some, it was considered a fashion statement during this period. 

~ 1531 AD ~ MEXICO  (Tenochtitlan) ~ Our Lady of Guadalupe visits Juan Diego and her exquisite image is set on the fragile cloth of his garment. Her bowed head tells the Aztecs that she is not a god as there is another.  Castilian are called for by Mary.  Growing on a barren hill in December, Juan Diego picks them and Mary arranges them in his tilma.  He obediently carries them to the Bishop as a sign.  When he opens his garment, the roses. like an unattached rosary - cascade out and her image forms on his tilma. Within this image of Mary lies the unborn child - Jesus. The life of Christ is in her - just as in the rosary today.

~ 1547 AD ~ Webster’s Dictionary dates the word Rosary at 1547.

~ 1550 ~ ENGLAND ~ From 1550 to 1660, 'Decade Rings' became popular because of the persecution of Catholics in England. (Rosaries and chaplets gave your religion away.) 10 nobs surrounded the outside of the ring (Aves) for counting and the front of the ring became the Pater. Once freedom of religious was restored by King Charles II, they continued to be made because of convenience.  (Today, we see them more as a larger  'thumb ring' because of sizing.)

~ 1550s ~ By mid century, a Rosary called the ‘Three Fifities’, is beginning to take shape. The longer Rosary, using 150 Ave beads, is divided into groups of 10 separated by 15 larger Paternoster beads. It is now attached to form a circle, called ‘the garden’. A pendant, hanging from one of the large beads has 3 small and 1 large bead and ends in a cross and is considered the ‘pathway or gateway to the garden’.

The Rosary receives official recognition by the Church through the work of the Rosary Confraternity.

~ 1568 AD ~ ITALY ~ The Rosary prayers - Ave - are now approved and incorporated into the reformed Roman Breviary by Pope Pius V with the bull Consueverunt Romani Pontifices. This followed their usage by the Mercedarians (1514), the Camaldolese (1515) and the Franciscans in (1525)

~ 1569 AD ~ ITALY ~ Pope Pius V (1566 - 1572) officially establishes the fifteen mysteries, 'the rosary or the Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary' as used today, calling it the 'Dominican' Rosary.

~ 1571 AD ~ ITALY ~ Admiral Doria carries a copy of the image of Our Lady of (Mexican) Guadalupe aboard ship into the sea battle of Lepanto and Pius V, a Dominican, also devoted to Our Lady, calls for a public recitation of the Rosary throughout Europe against the unbeatable Turks. The Christian ships (from Venice, Genoa and Spain) are surrounded by the Turks (Saracens) but the European fleet over run them, driving them back. Christian Europe is saved.

~ 1572 AD ~ ITALY ~ Pope Pius V commemorates an annual remembrance of the Battle of Lepanto in honor of ‘Our Lady of Victory’.

~ 1573 AD ~ COUNCIL of TRENT ~ The Rosary as we know it today (Dominican Rosary), becomes standardized. (50 Aves ? 4 Paters dividing 5 decades on the loop with a connector Pater that leads to the pendant. The pendant now includes 3 Aves or 'Antiphon Beads' along with the Pater(s) and the crucifix. Many will include a 'Credo' (Creed) cross above the crucifix.  In the 6th Session of the Council (Chapter X on the 'Increase of Justification Received', it reads 'and this increase of justification holy Church begs when she prays, "Give unto us, O Lord, increase of faith, hope and charity." (Mary is the model of faith, hope and charity, thus we pray to her to intercede for us on these 3 beads.) It will take time for this standardization to reach all of Christianity and the 'Credo' cross will eventually be dropped.

~ 1573 AD ~ITALY ~ Pope Gregory XIII sets aside the first Sunday in October calling it the ‘Feast of the Holy Rosary’.

~ 1578 AD ~ GERMANY ~ Prayer beads, Crowns, Rosaries still stay regional when it comes to the count of beads and devotions but men are more likely to pray on a 'Gebetskette Zehner' (Prayer chain with 10 beads). The one below has a large filigree or pomander bead (to carry spices / herbs) to ward off the plague - or cover the aroma between baths which were not daily.

This German woodcut dated 1578 shows a man with one hand on a dog and the left hand praying on a 'Zehner' or a 'Tenner' (10 beads) ending in a tassel. Tassels on rosaries were symbolic of 'wiping away the tears of sin or sorrow'.

see Rosary Workshops inspired Zehners

 ~ 1587 AD ~ Mary Queen of Scotts is beheaded while wearing a necklace of pomander beads (scented Rosary). - see HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr Dubin, pg 90)

~ 1590s ~ Neck Rosaries ~ More and more men and women are wearing Rosaries around the neck. Some for ornamental purposes (adornment) while others for spiritual reasons. Often worn to identify love of God or organizations and confraternities.

~ 1593 AD ~EUROPE ~ Sees a more universal organization and use of Paternoster guilds for making Rosaries all over Europe, especially in Germany, Austria and England.

~ 1597 AD ~ EUROPE ~ We see the first 'found' recorded use of the term 'rosary' to refer to prayer beads although term is used and well known in most parts of Europe.

 ~~~~~~~~ 16c NOTES ~~~~~~~~


LEFT: Rosary of different sized beads with a pendant carried by a Nun wearing a scapular styled habit. RIGHT: A rosary of beads all the same size. The nuns have been identified from the order of St. Bridget of Sweden (holding book and rosary, wearing a scapular.)  Also note headgear on right worn by the Brigettine Sisters. A band around the head is connected to bands over the head.  5 circles on each of the connecting points symbolize the 5 wounds of Christ.)

 The Glory Be' (Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be, world without end, Amen) and the second half of the 'Ave' (Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, Amen) are now part of the formal Rosary. But many other variations will co-exist for the next two centuries depending on local customs.
Filigree beads are found in a 16c Venice necklace strung with enameled gold beads (now in Milan's Museo Poldi-Pezzoli confirming that the Byzantine beadmaking practices were still being used after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks (1453) according to the History of Beads by Lois Sherr Dubin.
For more information, see the
During the 16th century, Ireland begins to trade with Spain, especially during the Penal Times. A hollow, tubular crucifix is formed and used on rosaries. It becomes known as the 'Galway Crucifx' and 'Galway Rosary'. The primitive corpus is typically Spanish in design (seen in many of the pieces brought to New Spain or Peru, Mexico, etc). The tubular design allows for the beading string to go through to the bottom of the cross.  It ends in a bead and/or a tassel (Tassel was for the 'wiping away of the tears).  A string was carried through the cross bars ending with a string (or finely torn fabric) tassels to match the bottom one.
The Galway cross is often seen with a figural madonna and child on the back side of the cross (which remains popular throughout Europe in various styles during the next few centuries).  Since the Irish rosary beads were often made of strung dried berries, they became known as 'The Fruit"
The 5 decade rosary is beginning to use a larger 'Gaudi Bead' more universally (see 12 c notes) It is also called the Pater Bead and is larger than the Aves. There is also a chaplet or a 10 bead prayer counter called a 'tenner' as the name suggests. This one decade of the rosary is especially popular with men and will be used by monks traditionally for the next 200 years. They end with several Paternosters and passementerie (an ornamental knot, tassel) or special medal. See also the 'Gebetskette Zehner' (Prayer chain with 10 beads) above.
Tilman Riemenschneider (1521 - 1524)

PATERS: Note the five large 'flower' Paters that tell the story of the mystery in picture form. Starting at the top, the  Annunciation and following to the right, Visitation, Nativity, Presentation and the Finding at the Temple. 

AVES: Ten flowers make up the 'Ave prayers' between each of the Pater beads. 6 Angels surround Mary and Child Jesus in her arms.

Limewood carving - 9 x 6 feet

ABOVE: This magnificent carving of Mary surrounded by a five decade rosary hangs in St. Maria im Weingarten Chapel (Volkach am Main.), Germany.  Carvings like this along with illustrations were meant to teach those who could not read the prayers and mysteries of the rosary.
Filigree beads are found in a 16c Venice necklace strung with enameled gold beads (now in Milan's Museo Poldi-Pezzoli confirming that the Byzantine beadmaking practices were still being used after the fall of Constantinople to the Turks (1453) according to the History of Beads by Lois Sherr Dubin.

*17th CENTURY*
~ 1627 AD ~ FRANCE ~ King Louis the XIII orders public recitation of the Rosary against the rebellious Huguenots. Fifteen thousand Rosaries are distributed to the troops with set hours of prayer. The battle is won and France is saved.

~ 1673 AD ~ FRANCE ~ St. Louis DeMontfort is born in Brittany. He will be the founder of two religious orders and many of his sermons are now in book form. ‘True Devotion to Mary,’‘The Secret of Mary’ and the ‘Secret of the Rosary’ are the most popular. Today these books guide those who choose to Consecrate their lives to Jesus through Mary.

~ 1683 AD ~AUSTRIA ~ Again the Saracens tried to invade. Their navy is broken but their army is strong. They try to take over the Balkan area by going into Vienna. King Leopold turns to Our Lady of the Rosary and the city is miraculously saved.

~ 1694 AD ~ NORTH AMERICA ~ Father Gravier writes from the Illinois country about giving beads to the children, 'It is true that the hope of getting a red bead - which is a fruit the size of a small bean (Oh that I had a bushel of them!) incites the children to answer well, but he adds, 'they must answer very well for several days to obtain either a rosary or the red bead or a cross' (See pg 274 of HISTORY OF BEADS by Lois Sherr.)

 ~~~~~~~~ 17c NOTES ~~~~~~~~


17th century coin silver filigree /wooden beads

 The Apostles Creed is added to the Rosary prayer. The overall configuration and prayer sequence of the Rosary is becoming more and more universally the same. Note small filigree cross on pendant above medallion. This is called the 'Credokreuz' Credo Cross' and a reminder to pray the Apostles Creed. Still no universal use of the 3 Ave beads in the pendant.
Portugal. Three Rosaries from the Heritage of Rauluchantim catalogue, all from the 17th century, are quite different but do exhibit the popular use of filigree beads as Pater Nosters:

          1. (160 mm): 5 decades of coral Ave beads are strung close together and separated with five gold filigree Pater Noster beads. Hanging from one of the Pater Noster beads is a pendant of 4 coral and 1 filigree (center). (All beads are the same size). It ends with a cross made of 7 filigree beads. (Private collection)

          2. (175 mm): 6 decades of turned eagle-wood [a rare, aromatic wood - from the Far East also known as Agarwood] beads with silver caps are linked together with an ‘s’ chain. They are separated by 6 smaller gold filigree beads. The circle is completed by the addition of 3 more eagle-wood beads . A small, plain gold cross hangs from a ‘center’ cross of twisted and coiled wire. This is attached directly to to the Ave beads of the Rosary. There are no beads on the pendant. (Museu de Art Antiga - Lisbon).

       3. (174 mm): Five decades of small filigree Ave beads are separated by 4 medium filigree Pater Nosters, all set on a chain. The filigree cross hangs from a flat medallion. The medallion is attached to the Rosary by 2 large filigree beads. There are no beads on the medallion. (Museu de Art Antiga - Lisbon)

There are many records of Rosaries (made for European use) from the Orient, of amber, crystal, coral and fine, aromatic woods. Rosaries made in Portuguese India are highly prized from a ’very early date’.

*18 th CENTURY*
  below see a 15 decade rosary of fine wooden beads dated (1720) by the Antiques dealer in Germany . 
He called it  a 'Psalter'. also note the credo cross
 (for larger image click icon)
Fort Fort Michilimackinac, at the top of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, believed to be from 
around 250 years old. A 6 decade rosary (Brigittine). Area well known for fur trading.
 (for larger image click icon)
for more information about this rosary see
~ 1700s ~ AUSTRIA and BAVARIA ~ At end of this century and into the next, a silver filigree rosary is popular (Some date back earlier). Very elegant, with the Paternosters of filigree beads and the Ave’s in coral, crystal and other precious stones.Small reliquary boxes from pilgrimages are attached and many have unidentified pieces of wood set into the crosses. Seven decades of Ave beads are popular. We discovered they were still being made in the Bavarian Forest as of 2007. (Oberammergau)
 ~~~~~~~~ 18c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

The image of the wooden rosary above dated 1720 by antiques dealer in Oberammergau Germany shows the pendant configuration of 1 Pater, 3 Aves and 1 Pater. Note too the Creedo Cross directly above the medallion. The Creedo Cross reminds the pray-er to pray the Creed and enter into the three aves above for prayer of an increase of Faith, Hope and Love (Charity).

Note completed rozenkranz (rosaries) hanging in the background and on the table as others are being constructed in a workshop in this old German engraving.

*19th CENTURY*
~ 1826 AD ~ The ‘Living Rosary’ is formed. Fifteen members create a circle of prayer, each agreeing to say a single decade each day. With this, each circle completes the whole Rosary.

~ 1829 AD ~ PRAGUE ~ The first recorded showing of pressed glass beads was at a trade show in Prague. By 1850, glass beads were being produced by the millions, and exported all over the world. Pressed glass beads became very popular because of interesting shapes including faceted surfaces.

~ 1834 AD ~ One Eustace Sirena authors hymns of the Rosary which are to be sung at 1st Vespers, Matins, Lauds and 2nd vespers. They include the mysteries and end with an invitation for one to ‘weave a crown of flowers’ from the prayers of the Rosary for Mary.

~ 1846 AD~ FRANCE ~ InLa Salette, two children, Melanie (15) and Maximin (11) are asked by the Blessed Lady if they say their prayers well. ‘Hardly at all’, they replied, at which she firmly and lovingly suggests they say at least an ‘Our Father’ or a ‘Hail Mary’ at night and in the morning.

~ 1852 AD ~ ITALY ~ From the diary of John Thomes Hymes (1843 - 1868):  December 7th -  'Bought some rosary rings and mosaic ornaments to amount of $55 to serve as presents on my return to the West Indies .. '

~ 1858 AD ~ FRANCE ~  When Bernadette of Lourdes sees the Lady - she reaches for her Rosary beads in fear, but is made motionless. Mary makes the sign of the cross with the Rosary she has in her hand and immediately, Bernadette is able to do the same. ‘Once I made the sign of the cross,... fear left’ she said, and prayed the Rosary in the Lady’s presence. When Bernadette tells Abbe (Father) Peyramale that Mary says, ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’, this simple peasant girl could hardly pronounce it. (A term is known only to the hierarchy).

~ 1862 - 1886 AD ~ SYDNEY ~ A complete dried berry rosary was excavated from under the floor boards of the Hyde Park Asylum.  Nuns would string berries by hand and in this rosary added 'gilt and copper'.It probably belonged to one of the patients/inmates as the Catholic population was well represented in the barracks.  .

~ 1871 AD ~ FRANCE ~ The apparition of Mary in Pontmain is in fullness when pastor Abbe Guerin begins to recite the Rosary. ‘The stars on her navy blue gown grew larger and larger until she appears clothed in gold.’ The result of her apparition is that the invading army of Prussia withdraws. Some Prussian soldiers on the outskirts of the city see the Virgin too, ‘... guarding the country and forbidding us to advance’.

~ 1879 AD ~ IRELAND ~ When Mary appears in Knock with St. Joseph and St. John, her silent mission gives hope and comfort to the people afflicted with the deadly potato famine and for a people who are often denied the right to attend Mass. During her visit, the people recite the Rosary, which they call the ‘Irish Catechism’.

~ 1883 - 1894 AD ~ ITALY ~ In his encyclical of September 2 1883, Pope Leo XIII promotes the Rosary as the ‘most glorious and effective prayer’ for those who want to reach Jesus through Mary. He encourages the Family Rosary and writes 12 encyclicals and many apostolic exhortations and letters on the Rosary, more than any Pope before him.

~ 1884 AD ~ ITALY ~ VISION OF POPE LEO XIII ~ During Mass he stared fixedly at something in the air and with a terrible look on his face, collapsed to the floor. As one rendition of the story tells it: 'he suddenly heard voices - two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. They seemed to come from near the tabernacle. As he listened, he heard the following conversation: The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: "I can destroy your Church." The gentle voice of Our Lord:  'You can? Then go ahead and do so.'  Satan: 'To do so, I need more time and more power.' Our Lord: 'How much time?How much power?' Satan: '75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.' Our Lord: 'You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.'" (This event prompted the writing of the prayer to St Michael the Archangel. 

~ 1888 AD ~ ITALY ~ St Michael the Archangel prayer written and release by Pope XIII on September 25 1888 against the evils of Satan and war. 'Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.' (see prayer below)

~ 1892 AD ~ NEW YORK ~ (Ellis Island): becomes a center for immigration. Hundreds of thousands of Immigration Rosaries are entering the new country at an unprecedented rate in the pockets and hands of people from Germany, Italy, Spain, France and other countries. America is receiving a new blessing from these people.

~ 1898 AD ~ ITALY ~ Leo XIII ~ issues a new charter of sorts, in the Apostolic Constitution on the Rosary Confraternity.

 ~~~~~~~~ 19c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

(BELOW:)  6 Decades of  6 mm faceted garnet Ave beads and silver filigree Paters were typical of the rosaries the Brigettine Sisters   Also a tradition of some confraternities or 3rd Orders or devotions  popular during that period (11 in) 

Beautiful hand painted images on porcelain and set in an oval silver filigree frame, one on either side See Christ crucified on one, and the Eucharist on the other. Medallion is 2 in, from tip to tip. 

*20th CENTURY*
~ 1914 ~ BOSNIA ~ Arch Duke Ferdinand is assassinated in Sarajevo, the capitol of the Austrian province of Bosnia. There is great unrest in Europe and sparks WW I.

~ 1917 ~ PORTUGUAL ~  In Fatima, the aroma of roses is present. Mary has a Rosary in her hand and calls herself ‘The Lady of the Rosary’ and encourages the children to ‘Say the rosary every day, to obtain peace for the world and an end to the war.’ The children, saddened by the anger their parents have shown over the story of the first apparition, decide not to take their usual short cut in saying only the titles ‘Our Father’ and ‘Hail Mary - Holy Mary’ on each bead of the Rosary any more. They agree to say the whole prayer on each bead in hopes of making things better.

~ 1917 ~ EUROPE ~ WW I breaks out

~ 1931 ~ POLAND ~ DIVINE MERCY ~ (Feb 22) St Faustina receives instructions from Jesus to have an image painted of him with two rays of light streaming from his heart, one red and the other white and the words 'Jesus I trust in you'. For next 7 years she obediently wrote his messages in a diary (“Divine Mercy in My Soul”. He made known to her that it was her job toprepare the world for His final coming. Jesus told her: “Write: before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the door of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the door of My mercy must pass through the door of My justice…” (Diary 1146) ...  "My hand is reluctant to take hold of the sword of justice. Before the Day of Justice I am sending the Day of Mercy”(Diary 1588).

~ 1941 ~ EUROPE ~ WW II begins

~ 1953 ~ ROME ~ From the Raccolta:  Indulgence for carrying the rosary: "The faithful who devoutly carry about their person [to wear] a Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary that has been properly blessed may gain an Indulgence of 500 days once a day, if they kiss the Rosary and at the same time devoutly recite these words of the Angelic Salutation: "Hail Mary, full of grace; the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus."(Pius XII, Audience March 12, 1953.)

~ 1982 ~ YUGOSLAVIA ~ (Bosnia-Hercegovina) ~ Mary appears to 6 children, Ivan, Jakov, Marija, Mirjana, Vicka, and Ivanka. in Medjugorge (not approved by the Church to date) and becomes a major pilgrim site.

~ 1992 ~  YUGOSLAVIA ~ (Bosnia-Hercegovina) ~ - The Siege of Sarajevo) - (April 6,)  A war termed the worst in Europe since the end of WW II broke out as the  Serbs began to fight the Muslims. Most of the towns fell, except for Sarajevo. The people of the war zone begin to understand why she came to their country.

 ~~~~~~~~ 20c - NOTES ~~~~~~~~

 ~ 1900 ~ According to a vision given to Pope Leo XIII (1888), this century is given to the devil. We see two major world wars along with Korea and Viet Nam. Prayer is removed from school and following this there is a fast pacing breakdown of morality. Killing the unborn becomes commonplace. People are more and more confused by New Age practices and attitudes. The Rosary which is truly the prayer of peace, has fallen into disuse along with general prayer and the effects are overwhelming. Church attendance and family values suffer. Godless people commit horrendous atrocities against the people of Bosnia. This age will become known as the 'Culture of Death'

*21st CENTURY*
~ 2001 ~ USA ~ The Twin Towers of World Trade Center (NYC) are hit on September 11th, along with the Pentagon (DC) in an attempt to take out the financial and governmental communities of the US. the nation comes together in prayer. Pope John Paul II calls for praying the daily rosary for peace during the month of October.

~ 2002 ~ VATICAN ~ Pope John Paul II introduces the fourth Mystery to the prayers of the rosary, the Mystery of Light or the Luminous Mysteries.  It embraces the public ministry of Christ: 1. Baptism of Jesus, 2. Wedding at Cana, (first sign of public ministry) 3. Proclamation of the Kingdom (call for our conversion), 4. Transfiguration (glory of the Lord) and 5. Eucharist (becoming one body in Christ).

~ 2003 ~ USA GOES TO WAR AGAINST TERRORISM - Troops begom to receive rosaries called 'Ranger Rosaries' created by a group from St Mary's Parish in Annapolis Md. led by Sgt Frank V Ristaino  - for more information see below. 

~ 2016 ~ USA ~  PRESIDENTAL ELECTION: Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton encourages Catholics to incorporate into a new group calling themselves "Catholic Spring". Removing themselves from the church ruled by middle ages ideas and people. More of a ("social group") Rosaries were prayed for God's response ~~~ Trump won by an unexpected landslide to become the 45th President Elect. 

Ranger Rosary Ministry Mission Statement: The rugged combat rosaries are to be made and sent to our service men and women serving throughout the world. The rosaries are distributed by Chaplains, especially those deployed in combat zones, and to those at stateside bases, and military hospitals.  For safety, the rosaries are made from parachute cord, dark beads, and black plastic crucifixes that do not rattle or reflect light.
 ~~~~~~~~ 21c NOTES ~~~~~~~~

Because of the magnitude of 20th and 21st centuries, it will be covered as a separate chronology. Dates are being cross checked now and will be on this site soon.

St. Michael the Archangel,  defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen..

(Pope Leo XIII - September 25, 1888)

History Icon image
Proceedings from the 
United States National Museum 
(Smithsonian)  (1906)
Gislind M Ritz (1963)
(Small format)
The Symbolic Background to the 
European Prayer-Beads
Ethne Wilkins (1969)
A Way into Meditative Prayer
Anne Vail
1475 K?ln 1975 (German)
Kunst und Fr?mmigkeit 
im Sp?tmittelalter 
und ihr Weiterleben (1975) 
 Richard Gribble (1992) 
The Making of the rosary 
in the Middle Ages
 Anne Winston-Allen ( 1997)
by Kevin Orlin Johnson  ( 1997)
Gabriel Harty OP  (1997)
 Romano Guardini   ( Reprint - 1999)
The rosary in History and Devotion
John D Miller (2001)
Andacht Geschichte Kunst (2003)
(Large format)
Sibylle Jargstorf (Schiffer Pub - 1995)
Lois Sherr Dubin (1987)
WGN van der Sleen (Shumway Pub - 1973)


Until about the end of the 15c, there were many counts used for prayers on beads. One was called the 'Crown' which did not have a designated count of beads and was seen in old paintings as an open ended or as a ring of beads (usually in favored coral).

CROWNS (through about the 15c) open or as a ring.
SHORT: 10 to 25 beads,  MEDIUM: 26 - 50 beads  LONG: up to 150 beads  (Paternoster or Chaplet)
from Sibylle Jargstorf  in GLASS BEADS FROM EUROPE.She points out the 150 was traditionally worn as a necklace.

--- 10 BEAD CHAPLETS ---

CAVALIERSBETTENS(mens praying) short open 'crowns' (often called 'Tenners' with 10 beads)
 'TENNERS', 'DECADES', (Europe). 'ZEHNERS' (Germany)


GREATER DOMINICAN ROSARY - 15 sets of 10 decades
LESSER DOMINICAN ROSARY - 5 sets of 10  decades
SERVITE ROSARY - (7 Sorrows of Mary) - 7 sets of 7 beads
FRANCISCAN CROWN -  (Seraphic Rosary) - 7 sets of 10 beads
BRIGITTINE ROSARY - (Brigittine Sisters) - 6 sets of 10 beads

ROSARY RINGS, also known as DECADE RINGS, BASQUE RINGS and THUMB RINGS came into the picture in the 1500s and were developed to count prayers secretly during the times when the Catholic church was being persecuted by Henry VIII (England) and into the Penal times (Ireland). ROSARY BRACELETS AND CHAPLETS carry 10 Ave beads and some carried the thumb ring and were passed from finger to finger to complete the 5 decades. NECKLACE ROSARIES: are really chaplets with 5 decades. WAIST ROSARIES are a full 15 decades and usually worn by religious hanging from the waist.

 ... John Paul II    October 1 2003 ...
..."Abandon yourselves with confidence into the hands of Mary, invoking her incessantly with the rosary, meditation of the mysteries of Christ," he added, prompting spontaneous applause from the faithful.
Our vision is to provide the finest handmade rosaries, chaplets and other fine religious art forms for personal worship we can make using the finest supplies available.  The Guild believes the work of our hands should give visual Glory to God, therefore for us, the best for you is very, very important.
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