History of the Holy Rosary

Catholic Doctrines


“Fr. Petros, what is the origin of the Rosary? My Sunday school teacher once taught me that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave it to St. Dominic. How true is this claim?” – Dalitso (Episcopal Conference of Malawi – Lilongwe, MALAWI)


1. Descriptive Definition

Dear Dalitso, The word “Rosary” means “Crown of Roses.” Our Lady has revealed to several people that each time they say a HAIL MARY they are giving her a beautiful rose and that each complete Rosary makes her a complete crown of roses. The rosary is a form of combined prayer and meditation that has been around for over 1200 years. It is contemplative and Christocentric prayer (see the mysteries below).

2. Irish Monks

The origin of the rosary dates back to the ninth century where Irish monks would recite and chant the 150 Psalms of the Bible as a major part of their worship. People living near the monasteries were drawn towards this beautiful and harmonious devotion, and they became very eager to join in with the monks’ prayers.

Unfortunately, the people were not able to adapt to this form of prayer because the psalms were very hard to memorize and printed copies were not readily available, as it is the case today with modern technology. As a result it was suggested to the people outside the monastery that they recite a series of 150 “Our Father” prayers in place of the psalms. Beads were used to guide them to “150 Our Fathers.”

As the Irish monks traveled throughout Europe, bringing with them this form of devotion, many clergy and lay people began to recite the “Angelic Salutation” (first part of the Hail Mary) as part of this devotion.

3. St. Dominic

St. Dominic receiving the Holy Rosary from the Blessed Virgin Mary

The first clear historical reference to the rosary, however, is from the life of St. Dominic (died in 1221), the founder of the Order of Preachers or Dominicans. He preached a form of the rosary in France at the time that the Albigensian heresy was devastating the Faith there (the error taught that there are 2 gods: of light and darkness/evil, our bodies were created by a god of darkness and our souls by a god of light, the body is evil. This false teaching was condemned by the Church). Tradition has it that the Blessed Mother Mary herself appeared to St. Dominic, gave him the Rosary and asked for the practice (of praying) as an antidote for heresy and sin. This type of the Rosary had 5 decades!

4. Alain de Roche

One of Dominic’s future disciples, Alain de Roche, began to establish Rosary Confraternities to promote the praying of the Rosary. The form of the rosary we have today is believed to date from his time.

5. St. Louis de Monfort

Around the year 1700, the thoughts used in the rosary started to become narratives (an account of events). St. Louis de Monfort composed the most common set of narratives that eventually became used as meditations for each decade of the rosary. These narratives were divided into five Joyful, five Sorrowful, and five Glorious meditations that are referred to as “Mysteries”.

6. St. John Paul II

Just recently, in 2002, Pope John Paul II introduced another set of five meditations referred to as the “Luminous Mysteries”.


The first 3 mysteries were introduced by St. Louis de Monfort in 1700, and the last one by St. John Paul II in 2002. These mysteries are accompanied by biblical meditation. See below!


A. The Joyful Mysteries (Monday and Saturday)

° The Annunciation of the Lord to Mary – Isaiah 7:13-14, Lk 1:26-38

° The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth – 2 Samuel 7:8-9, Lk 1:41-56

° The Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ – Lk 2:4-15, Mt 2:1-11

° The Presentation of our Lord – Lk 2:21-40

° Finding Jesus in the Temple at age 12 – Lk 2:41-52


B. The Sorrowful Mysteries (Tuesday and Friday)

° The Agony of Jesus in the Garden – Isaiah 53:8,10-12,Mk 14:32-40

° The Scourging at the Pillar – Isaiah 53:5-7, Jn 18:19-20

° The Crowning with Thorns – 1 Sam 8:6-8, Mt 27:27-28

° The Carrying of the Cross – Jn 19:16-17

° The Crucifixion – Lk23:45-47


C. The Glorious Mysteries (Wednesday and Sunday)

° The Resurrection – Mk 16:10-12

° The Ascension of the Lord – Mt 28:16-2

° The Descent of the Holy Spirit – Joel 3:1-25,Acts 1:13-1

°The Assumption of the Blessed Mother into heaven – Rev 12:1, 4-17

° The Crowning of Mary as Queen of Heaven – Rev. 12:1, 4-17


D. The Luminous Mysteries (Thursday)

° The Baptism of Jesus in Jordan – Mt 3:13-17, 1 Cor. 5:19-21

° The Wedding Feast of Cana – Jn 2:1-11

° The Preaching of the Kingdom – Mk 1:15, Mt 4:23

° The Transfiguration – Lk 9:28-32

° The Institution of the Eucharist – Lk 22:14-20


The more we pray and recite the Rosary, the more we read and meditate on the Word of God (the Sacred Scriptures).



“The Rosary has accompanied me in moments of joy and in moments of difficulty. To it I have entrusted any number of concerns; in it I have always found comfort.” – Pope John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. The Rosary is a powerful weapon against evil and the Devil. Have one, ask a priest for a blessing, wear daily, pray daily and be protected from evil forces!


Receive my Priestly Blessings from St. Cecilia Catholic Parish (Mzuzu Diocese – Mpherembe)

Rev. Fr. Petros Mwale – Feedback: +265884150185 (WhatsApp only)






Rosarium Virginis Mariae; Apostolic Letter of the Supreme Pontiff John Paul II to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful on the Most Holy Rosary (Great Britain: Catholic Truth Society) 2002.

EKasten, Patricia Ann; Linking Your Beads: The Rosary’s History, Mysteries, and Prayers, (London: OSV Publishers) 2011

Winston-Allen, Anne; Stories of the Rose (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press) 1997.

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