The History of Prayer Beads and Rosaries

The practice of praying with beads for Christians is believed to originate with the Desert Fathers around the 3rd and early 4th centuries where they carried pebbles in a pouch for counting prayer. These pebbles eventually became beads and were strung on cord.

Our modern English word bead is from the Anglo-Saxon "bede" which translates to "prayer". During the Middle Ages the practice of praying with beads spread throughout Europe and was used in Catholic monasteries. It began with 150 beads to mark the 150 Psalms to recite in a cycle each week.

Did you know the term rosary dates to the 15th century and was formed from the Latin word rosarium which means "rose garden" combined with the Medieval Latin "garland, string of beads, series of prayers".

Eventually another form of prayer and beads were created, these became known as the rosary. The rosary was widely used throughout the Middle Ages and in 1569 Pope Pius V established the current form of the rosary.

History of Christian Prayer Beads

In the 1980's an Episcopal priest, the Reverend Lynn Bauman and a group of parishioners studying contemplative prayer began to explore the age-old custom of praying with beads. They developed the simplified Anglican rosary that uses just thirty-three beads.

Did you know in the 4th Century, Emperor Constantine abolished crucifixion as a punishment and the cross was promoted as a symbol of the Son of God. Earlier Christians used the sign of the ichthys (fish) or the anchor as a way of expressing their faith.

Prayer beads and rosaries have remained an important part of spiritual practice providing aid in meditation and prayer. Over the years the beads have transformed and changed to various styles and types depending on the religious group or personal need.