Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Christian Prayer Beads (Part 3)

Medieval-style Rosary (made with coral beads), made by Ladyhawthorne
Photo and Rosary Design Copyright Canterbury Cottage Blog, 2011

by Angela Magnotti Andrews

Medieval Rosary Practice
During the Medieval Age, the practice of carrying or wearing a beaded rosary became the official symbol of Christianity. Many of the rosaries from the 1300s were outfitted with pomander beads filled with fragrant myrrh, cloves, and musk. Whether the wearer offered this fragrance as an offering to God or whether they wore them to ward off the plague, these rosaries were favored by women, who often added dried fruit, dried flowers, or figurines. {Rosary Workshop} Many of these added flourishes included flasks of holy water or relics of saints, but some were more talismanic in nature, such as heart medallions or good-luck charms. {Laning}

Today, Christians have adopted the fish symbol, but in the 1500s, it was common practice for believers to wear a rosary on their arm or in some other prominent place to declare their faith. So widely spread was this practice that even royalty began wearing them. Most of these higher-class  rosaries were made from gold, silver, amethysts, jasper, pearls, or jet.

Medieval rosary beads were either round or oval and were strung on ribbons or silk strands for wear as a necklace. Beads were rarely faceted and might include meaningful materials, such as coral, which was believed to have healing powers and guard against the “evil eye.” {Laning} By the mid-15th century, people at nearly every level of society carried a rosary. Pilgrims on their way to shrines and churches wore distinctive rosaries about their waists to indicate their religious affiliation, even certain knightly orders adopted rosaries as part of their uniforms.

Jump to Part 4
1. Encylopedia Britannica Online. “Rosary.” Accessed October 20, 2012.
2. Laning, Chris. “Historical Rosary and Paternoster Beads.” Paternoster-Row website, 2007-2009.
3. Museum of Anthropology. University of Missouri. “Prayer Beads: A Cultural Experience.” Copyright 2011. Last updated October 22, 2012.
4. Prayer Beads World (website). “Prayer Beads in Islam.” Copyright 2008. Accessed October 22, 2012.
5. Roman, Alexander. To Bead or Knot to Bead: Some Historical Considerations. As found on Chotkis website on October 22, 2012.
6. Rosarium, The. “About” Accessed October 22, 2012.
7. Rosary Workshop. “Journaling the Bead: A History of the Rosary.” Accessed October 20, 2012.
8. Winston, Kimberly.  Bead One, Pray Too. New York: Moorehouse Publishing, 2008.

*Clip-art courtesy of The Graphics Fairy


  1. The decorations generally change according to the location and the availability of resources. become ordained online The first commercial decorations have appeared in Germany in the 1860s.

  2. Nice share. In ancient times prayer beads were used at the time of prayer only but nowadays these prayer beads comes in the form of jewellery. And people wear them with the motive of peace and faith. The Medieval rosary beads you have shared is really beautiful, we have more such catholic jewellery designs at our catholic stores online