"Original" Rosary question

Hi everyone, I’ve read on the internet that originally the Our Father was said on the five decades of the rosary, not the Hail Mary. I like this idea and would be interested in knowing more about the original prayers of the rosary.

Ewtn talks about the Paternosters, which is what the orig. was called, but I couldn’t find the actual prayer configuration. What was said on the other beads? Does anyone know? I love the Our Father and like the idea of a paternoster rosary. Too bad we don´t hear more about it. After all it is the prayer Jesus taught the world. God bless.

Hmmm - Well, I was told that the “Pater Noster” was the recitation of 150 “Pater Nosters”. 150 to take the place of the 150 psalms, using beads.
I don’t think there is any configuration, just the recitation of 150 Our Fathers. I would say it would be good to meditate on the mysteries as we know them, but I don’t know if the “Pater Noster” incorporated the mysteries back in the day.

I hope someone comes along who knows more.

I know nothing about the Rosary but it piqued my interest…here is a website that has some interesting information:


God bless!!


I think the Chaplet of the Precious Blood is something that you’d be interested in. It’s very similar to the rosary. Instead of 5 mysteries it consists of 7. The seven mysteries meditates on the seven different events in which Jesus had shed his blood. Instead of Hail Mary’s, this Chaplet is filled with with Our Father’s. 33 Our Father’s, one for each year of Jesus’ life.

It’s true that originally pater nesters were said rather than Aves, but it wouldn’t have been called a rosary at that point. Of course a rosary is simply a string of prayer beads too. Its name literally means “crown of roses” which refers to the prayers said to Mary. So if you want to get nit-picky about it, saying any other prayers on the rosary makes it not a rosary but simply prayer beads (or perhaps a chaplet). :wink:

Thank you for this it was very helpful. Bless.

I would like this thank you. I am going go look it up when I get back from Mass. Thanks and Bless.

Ok with a little more research I think I figured it out. For the Paternosters you say the Our Father on the decades and the Glory Be on the separating bead. The first bead after the crucifix, is a Glory Be the next three beads are just for keeping track of how many times you’ve completed the chain (3x50) then another Glory Be. So to say it: Glory Be, 10 Our Fathers, Glory Be and so on ending with a Glory Be. My confusion came with the “keeping track” beads, I am so used to prayers being said on them that I was looking in vain for the original prayers. But it finally dawned on me after seeing a paternoster chain in this painting https://www.flickr.com/photos/claning/4746256437/

The first three beads in between the gold Glory Be beads are for the three times the chain has to be gone around. :thumbsup:

Sorry the link to the painting I referenced in my previous post didn’t appear. Here it is for those curious: flickr.com/photos/claning/4746256537/

I should just add:

The rosary as we know it today is actually a sort of combination of different devotions from the Middle Ages. So there’s no one single ancestor, but a number of ancestors.

There’s of course, as you mention, the 150 Our Fathers or the paternosters, which was sort of used as a substitute for the recitation of the 150 Psalms (as mentioned). We also have records from the 11th-13th centuries of a particular devotion in which you would pray a set number of Hail Marys in honor of Our Lady. (The actual number could vary: 50, 60, 100 or 150 are quite common. There were even a few German nuns who would pray a thousand Hail Marys on regular days - two thousand for special days!) Sometimes these devotions could be said with the aid of prayer beads to keep count of the repetition - what would later become rosaries.

These devotions are not ‘rosaries’ in the modern sense in that you don’t meditate on any mystery: they’re really just repetitious prayer. The idea of meditating on mysteries comes from yet another (related) devotion - also designed as a substitute for the recitation of the 150 Psalms. There was this type of devotion called the “Marian Psalter,” where the antiphons that preceded each Psalm in the Liturgy of the Hours were replaced by short verses that interpreted each of the psalms as a reference to either Christ (in which case, it is a “Jesus Psalter”) or Mary.

Eventually the recitation of the actual psalms were dropped; you instead said an Our Father or a Hail Mary in their place. But without the Psalms, the connection that these antiphons had to a specific theme were lost. Soon, the antiphons themselves were dropped, with rhymed free paraphrases or a litany of 150 verses in praise of the Virgin being in their place. Later, for ease of recitation, the Marian Psalters were subdivided into three sets of fifty stanzas, each of which was also designated as a chaplet (later a “rosary”).

You can see some clearer parallels with our rosary here. But in a sense, these are also not the same as our modern rosaries, because you’re not so much meditating on events from the lives of Jesus or Mary, but on their titles or attributes. That comes from a further variation of this type of devotion.

(Continued in the next post)


From the 14th century onwards in Germany - much of our sources from this time actually come from German or Dutch-speaking areas - you see versions of the Marian/Jesus Psalter (now in some versions actually more a litany than a psalter or even a set of repetated prayer) which insert the idea of reflecting on scenes from the lives of Jesus or Mary to the devotion. It was also around this time you see the term ‘rosary’ (rosenkranze) being applied to these forms of devotion.

A Dominic was instrumental in shaping the rosary into the form that we know it today. Unfortunately, it’s not so much the founder of the Dominican order.

Some scholars now even think that it’s doubtful whether St. Dominic de Guzman really had an active role in the rosary devotion. For one, the sources which claim a connection between him and the rosary only appeared a couple hundred or so years after he died; sources from his lifetime or immediately afterwards don’t mention anything on the matter. Not to mention that the rudiments of the devotion already existed in his time: so even if the story about St. Dominic is true, he wouldn’t have been preaching an entirely new devotion that no one had ever heard of before. (Plus, his ‘rosary’ would not have been the same as our modern one.)

A German Carthusian monk from the mid-15th century named Dominic of Prussia (1384-1460) first proposed his version of the rosary in 1458. His version had 50 Hail Marys (ending in “blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus…”, in 15th century fashion) after which comes a theme of Christ’s life to be meditated upon. So for example: “… and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus, conceived of the Holy Spirit during the Annunciation of the Angel.

Dominic of Prussia’s devotion wasn’t the first “life of Jesus rosary” there was. For one, a similar but independent devotion was attested in a nearby Cistercian nunnery from 1300, some 82 years before Dominic was even born. (In addition, you have a number of “life of Jesus/Mary” psalters/rosaries in either Latin or vernacular already existing by that time.) But Dominic’s version was the first to become very popular. Not to mention that it was the first to contain just 50 Hail Marys + meditations. (The Cistercian version from 1300 by comparison had ninety-eight - probably originally a hundred.)

You can see Dominic’s influence even today in the German version of the (modern) rosary: apparently it’s still a custom for Germans to recite a short clause in the middle of the Hail Mary. ("… und gebenedeit ist die Frucht deines Leibes, Jesus, den du, o Jungfrau, vom Heiligen Geist empfangen hast…")

Soon everybody jumped onto Dominic’s bandwagon; many people produced their own versions or variations of the ‘older’ (repetitive/psalter) and the ‘newer’ (meditative) models. By the late 15th century, you have rosary confraternities being started throughout Europe.

But still, there was still no fixed form of the devotion: a late-15th century prayer book called “About the Psalter and Rosary of Our Lady” (Von dem psalter unnd Rosenkrancz vnser lieben frauen) gives six different ways of reciting the rosary (it doesn’t include Dominic’s version) and even encourages the reader to find another method if he didn’t find any of the six satisfying. Depending on the version, you could have as many as 200 or as few as five mysteries. There were rosaries both based on the old repetitive / psalter (just the prayers, no mysteries to meditate upon) type and the new meditative type. The version we know today - fifteen mysteries on 150 Hail Marys, divided into three mysteries - didn’t become the standard until a papal proclamation in 1569.

Here’s a little chart (from John Desmond Miller’s Beads and Prayers: The Rosary in History and Devotion):

Thank you Patrick that was very interesting, I enjoyed reading your posts:)

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