Growing Apologist

Becoming a Defender of Truth

Ave Maria! Part 2

on October 26, 2011


As a continuation from my earlier posts titled Ave Maria! which introduced this series on the Holy Rosary and Ave Maria! Part 1 which explained at a high level what the Rosary is, here I present the early history of the Rosary.  I have found the history of the Rosary to be fascinating and encourage all to research it as well.  I include my references at the end of the article.  Please remember I am no expert on the Theology of the Catholic Church and welcome all to question my research.

Where did it come from?

Saint Dominic of Guzman, by Claudio Coello, Mu...

There is no telling when the praying with beads or knotted cords first came about.  Even before the foundation of the not established until 1214 and 1460 [2].  Before that, it was known in a different form and a different name:  the Marian Psalter [1]. Before the Church and Christianity, other religions had been known to use some way to keep track of the number of prayers that was said, whether that was by knotted cords or beads or dropping stones in a bowl [1].  The Rosary as we know it today was not established until 1214 [2].  Before that, it was known in a different form and a different name:  the Marian Psalter [1].

In the middle ages, the laity (ordinary people) would gather while the monks recited the 150 psalms of David in Latin.  Most of the Laity could not read Latin.  In an effort to accommodate them, 150 Our Father prayers were substituted in place of the psalms of David.  Over time the Creed was accepted along with the Hail Mary prayer.  Eventually, a second form of prayer rival to the recitation of 150 Our Father prayers developed.  This was the recitation of 150 Hail Mary prayers called the Marian Psalter [1].

It wasn’t until the Albengensian Heresy in the 13th century when St. Dominic received the Holy Rosary from the Blessed Virgin Mary as ammunition to end the Heresy [1, 2].  The Albengensian Heresy claimed to be Christian while condemning marriage and procreation as evil and that the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ were an illusion.  Many people begun to follow these beliefs particularly in France and the spreading of these beliefs threatened Christianity [1].  St. Dominic preached to these people unsuccessfully until at last Mary appeared to him in a vision and told him to use the Marian Psalter in conjunction with his preaching.  St. Dominic divided his preaching on the Incarnation of Jesus, the motherhood of Mary and the sanctity of marriage between the Hail Mary prayers and Our Father prayers which led to the conversion of all those who heard him [1].

St. Dominic’s practice of interspersing the life of Jesus with the Marian Psalter was known as the Psalter of Jesus and Mary [2].   From St. Dominic, the body of the prayer was the recitation of 150 Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, and the soul of the prayer was the meditation on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus [1].  The actual meditations were not set as they are today until the preaching of Alan de la Roche in 1460. Alan de la Roche introduced set meditations for the Psalter and named the practice as the Holy Rosary, giving us the practice we have today.


[1] The Secrets of the Rosary, Part 1 by St. Louis de Montfort,

[2] Theology for the Laity, In Defense of Tradition, by Father Paul A. Duffner, Light & Life Vol 49 No 5, Sept-Oct 1996,


2 responses to “Ave Maria! Part 2

  1. […] Ave Maria! Part 2– Brief history on the Holy Rosary […]

  2. […] Ave Maria! Part 2 ( […]

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