History of the Rosary?

Does anybody know its history? The reason I ask is because I was reading an article in the NY Times a while back. The other, who did not appear to be a friend of the Catholic church, indicated that the Catholic Church took the idea of the Rosary from Muslim prayer beads. It was in the editorial section so I wouldn’t be surprised if the article was written without much research.

The legend of St Dominic says that Our Lady gave
the rosary to him to help him destroy the Albegesian heresy.

Many also support the idea that its just an evolution of the recitation of the 150 psalms.

The Rosary is older than St Dominic for sure, though he had a hand in putting it in the form we know today.

And remember the Eastern Orthodox have used similar prayer beads in their practice of the ‘Jesus prayer’ certainly from well before Islam came on the scene.

While I in absolutely no way assert that the Rosary came from Muslim prayers beads (I do NOT believe they did), if they had come from them, would that be evidence of them being a bad devotion. Much that was pagan has been baptized and brought to Christ so that the fullness of the limited truth given to those outside the Church might be realized.

Heck, does the Catholic Church reject the convert who now confesses Christ and the Truth of the Church He founded? No, once baptized and confirmed, a convert is fully Catholic and accepted as such.

The indigenous people of South and Central America mistakenly worshipped a Maternal God who required human blood sacrifice. After Our Lady of Guadalupe’s visitation near Mexico City, Millions of the Natives converted to Catholicism as they recognized the fullness of the truth in Catholicism that had been incorrectly hinted at in their Pagan faith. The Queen of Heaven, while not a God, is a Queen who loves her children and shares with us the truth of the one sacrifice for all time, that of her Son, who Is God.

Just something to think about. The Pagans follow their religions because there is a small kernal of truth that leads them astray. Once it is rightly compared to the fullness of truth, they come home, sometimes with an appreciation for aspects of the faith that have been neglected by many who have been in the Church before them.


Just to add to the fun – the use of beads for counting prayers goes back further than the time of Christ. We find them in ancient paintings in China, in the Middle East and in Egypt long before the time of Christ. They seem to have migrated throughout the “known world” – and each culture has “adapted” them for their own use. Prayer ropes (“chotki” for the Slavs) used by the Orthodox and Easter Catholics have 33, 50, 100 or 300 knots. The rosary as we know it derived from earlier uses of beads/knots for praying and, while attributed to St. Dominic, probably predate him by about 100 years.

Deacon Ed

The Fifteen Promises of Mary to Christians Who
Recite the Rosary

  1. Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the rosary, shall receive signal graces.
  2. I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the rosary.
    3.The rosary shall be a powerful armour against hell, it will destroy vice, decrease sin, and defeat heresies.
    4.It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities, and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means.
  3. The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the rosary, shall not perish.
  4. Whoever shall recite the rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred mysteries shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice, he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just he shall remain in the grace of God, and become worthy of eternal life
  5. Whoever shall have a true devotion for the rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church.
  6. Those who are faithful to recite the rosary shall have during their life and at their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the saints in paradise.
  7. I shall deliver from purgatory those who have been devoted to the rosary.
  8. The faithful children of the rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
  9. You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the rosary.
  10. All those who propagate the holy rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
  11. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestal court during their life and at the hour of death.
  12. All who recite the rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only son Jesus Christ.
  13. Devotion of my rosary is a great sign of predestination.
    (Given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan) Imprimatur:
    +PATRICK J. HAYES. D.D… Archbishop of New York

Prayer beads and/or ropes have been around for centuries. The Hindus and the Bhuddists have used them. Every culture will get around to their use. It is a logical way to keep track of prayers and other devotions.

By the way, suppose the Catholics did get the concept of prayer beads from the Muslims? SO WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!

We also got coffee from the Muslims. Does this make coffee some sort of beverage that good Christians must never drink?

Coffee or prayer beads, it is not important who came up with the idea first. It is what we have done with that idea.

By the way, suppose the Catholics did get the concept of prayer beads from the Muslims? SO WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!

We also got coffee from the Muslims. Does this make coffee some sort of beverage that good Christians must never drink?

Coffee or prayer beads, it is not important who came up with the idea first. It is what we have done with that idea.

The reason I asked the question was because of the following article I read in the NY Times:


Obviously that article, which was not written in response to anything, is implying that Catholics are/were just as guilty as Muslims when it comes to violence. The author (probably a self-hating Catholic), like many secularists, feels the need to apologize on behalf of Christians. This obviously irritated me as I hardly see how the Crusades of centuries ago can be compared to current day Muslim violence. If the authors statement as to the Rosary is not factual, then obviously his credibility should be questioned and he needs to be called out on it. Especially since the NYTimes enjoys a large circulation. If anti-Catholic/anti-Christian opinions are given a soapbox, they should at least be accurate…if not, then the readers need to be set straight before it is somehow justified in their liberal minds that we should not be outraged by Muslim violence.

Does that answer your question to “So What?”

Can you cite anything definitively saying that the rosary as we know it is older than Dominic? I only ask, becuase Ive never
heard anything but speculation.

Go here: newadvent.org/cathen/13184b.htm

From Wikipedia, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosary#Key_dates

Key dates
The following table are key dates in the development of the rosary.
*]4th century prayer rope used by the Desert Fathers to count repetitions of the Jesus Prayer
*]c. 1075 Lady Godiva refers in her will to “the circlet of precious stones which she had threaded on a cord in order that by fingering them one after another she might count her prayers exactly” (Malmesbury, “Gesta Pont.”, Rolls Series 311) [1]
*]Early to mid 12th century repetition of the Hail Mary prayer (in groups of 50) comes into use as a devotion[2]
*]1160 St Rosalia is buried with a string of prayer beads[2]
*]1214 traditional date of the legend of St Dominic’s reception of the rosary from the Virgin
*]Mid-13th century word “Rosary” first used (by Thomas of Champitre, in De apibus, ii. 13),[3] not referring to prayer beads but in a Marian context
*]1268 Reference to guild of “paternosterers” in Paris in “Livre des métiers” of Stephen Boyleau.[2]
*]Early 15th century a Carthusian, Dominic of Prussia, introduces the meditations (mysteries)[4]
*]c. 1514 Hail Mary prayer attains its current form.[5]
*]1569 Pope Pius V established the current form of the original 15 mysteries[6]
*]1597 first recorded use of term “rosary” to refer to prayer beads.[7]
*]2002 Pope John Paul II introduces the Luminous Mysteries as an option for Catholics[8][/LIST]BTW, I thought Islam began in the 7th century?


Islam did indeed begin in that century - and as you correctly pointed out, prayer ropes were in existence before then :smiley:

And I never did say that the Rosary AS WE KNOW IT is older than St Dominic, plenty of its prayers are later additions, but the idea of reciting 50 or 150 Hail Marys (which is its basis) and using beads to keep count of them, most certainly is, as has been shown.

PA2NCCatholic…one of the best Catholic books I have ever read gives the entire background of the development of the Rosary from the earliest times and covers everything you could want to know. It is incredibly well-researched and full of information on Church history you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else. As a plus the author is a fantastic writer. You can check out the reviews at amazon. Published in 1997.

Rosary: Mysteries, Meditations and the Telling of the Beads
Kevin Orlin Johnson, PhD

What has this got to do with the original question? :confused:

This is an nice and short and excellent history.

I also recommend the book Stories of the Rose: The Making of the Rosary in the Middle Ages by Anne Winston-Allen . An excellent book and many of the sources quoted are also widely available.

An excerpt:
While it has been assumed that Christians first brought back prayer counters from the Holy Land at the time of the Crusades, devotional beads were actually in use in Europe before the time of the Crusades (goes on to tell about Lady Godiva, Abbess Getrude, Paul of Thebes and St. Antony. For that matter she links the Muslim tasbih with Hindu beads)

Sometimes to support a particular viewpoint people take just one of the theories and report it as if it was the only, absolutely 100% credible one, which is not always the case.

Besides I would think that public calls to prayer were a little more common for the Angelus- the Catholic Encyclopedia article may be helpful

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