The Origins of the Rosary

The Origins of the Rosary

The Holy Rosary is one of the most revered Catholic prayers. Along with the Our Father, the rosary forms the basis for powerful intercession and joins us in appreciation for the Lord and His sacrifice. But where did the rosary come from?


The Paternosters

For centuries before Christ, people have prayed repetitious prayers[1]. They sometimes used rocks to count the number of prayers. Around the medieval period, beads started to be used to pray the Paternosters (Our Fathers). In fact, the English word “bead” comes from the word bid, which means to “pray or request”[2].

Initial recitation of prayers was done by monks, at the direction of St. Benedict [3]. They prayed 10, 50 or 150 Psalms [4]. Laymen saw the monks doing this and also started to follow this practice. However, if a person was illiterate, they would instead pray 150 Our Fathers because they knew that prayer by memory. Using beads to count, this practice became to be known as the Paternosters.


Saint Dominic

As time went on, people began to add to the Paternoster. Prayers added included the Ave Maria and the Gloria Patri [2]. This became the basis for praying “chaplets”. Sometime around the 12th century, Marian Psalters became widely used, as people focused more on the Mysteries of Christ [5].

As the rosary was beginning to take place with various prayers, traditionally, it is taught that Saint Dominic created the rosary as we know it today. Concerned about the Albigensian heresy, in 1214 Saint Dominic prayed for help and was visited by Our Blessed Mother [6]. It was from these visions of the Virgin Mary that we learned the structure and order to pray the rosary [4].


The Popularity of the Rosary rises

In the 1500’s, the Moslem Turks were attacking Europe. In 1571 Pope Pius V, along with the Kingdom of Spain, created a fleet to push back the Turks. The Pope asked the faithful to pray the rosary so that the Christians would be victorious.

Although the Spanish fleet was much smaller, they secured victory on October, 7, 1571, at the Battle of Lepanto. The next year, Pope Pius V created the Feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7th. This would ensure people would not only remember the battle, but give thanks to the Lord and Our Lady’s intercession [7].


The Importance of the Rosary

Many Popes and Saints have preached the importance of saying the rosary. Our Lady herself has come at times to encourage us as well. For instance, at Fatima, the Virgin Mary asked us to pray the rosary every day for the conversion of sinners and the end of war. We know it has power.

The recitation of the rosary allows us to not only grow closer to Mary, but most importantly reflect on the Mysteries of Our Lord, Jesus Christ. This enables us to grow in relationship with God and His grace. Meditating on the life of Christ enables us to discern right from wrong, increases our willpower to do good and not sin, and keeps us focused on eternal life in Heaven and not worldly desires [8].

The rosary is a powerful defender against evil and the devil. The devil hates Mary, hates God and hates the rosary. He wants us to stray, to doubt and to sin. The rosary is a protector of all that is good and it is the truth of God in the form of prayer.  As Bishop Sheen says, “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.” [9]


Pray the rosary every day. If you’d like a special place to store it, please consider purchasing one of my rosary pouches. They’re a great way to protect your rosary. They make great gifts and are fantastic evangelization tools. God Bless!







      2. Historical Rosary and Paternoster Beads | Paternoster Row   (

  1. Parallel Latin-English Psalter (
  2. The History of the Rosary -
  4. St. Dominic - Saints & Angels - Catholic Online
  5. The History of the Rosary | EWTN
  6. Why the Rosary is So Powerful against the Devil - Catholic Stand
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