ROSARY (Lat. rosarium), a popular devotion of the Roman Catholic Church, consisting of 15 Paternosters and Glorias and 1 50 Aves, recited on beads. It is divided into three parts, each containing five decades, a decade comprising i Pater, 10 Aves and a Gloria, in addition to a subject for meditation selected from the " mysteries " of the life of Christ and of the Blessed Virgin. The Christian practice of repeating prayers is traceable to early times: Sozomen mentions (H.E. v. 29) the hermit Paul of the 4th century who threw away a pebble as he recited each of his 300 daily prayers; and a canon of the English synod of Cealcythe in 816 (Mansi xiv. 360) directed seplem beltidum Paternoster to be said for a deceased bishop. In many orders the lay brothers daily said a large number of Paternosters instead of reading the breviary; it was natural that the Paternoster should be the prayer most often repeated. The Ave Maria is first mentioned as a form of prayer in the second half of the 11th century, but it was not until the 16th century that it became general in its present form. It is not known precisely when the mechanical device of the rosary was first used. William of Malmesbury (De gest. pont. Angl. iv. 4) says that Godiva, who founded a religious house at Coventry in 1040, left a string of jewels, on which she had told her prayers, that it might be hung on the statue of the Blessed Virgin. Thomas of Chantimprfi, who wrote about the middle of the 13th century, first mentions the word " rosary " (De apibus, ii. 13), using it apparently in a mystical sense as Mary's rose-garden. There is no contemporary confirmation of the story that the rosary was given to St Dominic through revelation of the Blessed Virgin and was employed during the crusade against the Albigenses, although the story was later accepted by Leo X., Pius V., Gregory XIII., Sixtus V., Alexander VII., Innocent XI. and Clement XI. According to Benedict XIV. (De Fest. 160), the belief rests on the tradition of the Dominican order. Whatever may have been the origin of the rosary, the Dominicans did much to propagate the devotion. The practice of meditating on the mysteries doubtless began with a Dominican, Alanus de Rupe (born 1428), and another Dominican, Jacob Sprenger (d. 1495), grand-inquisitor in Germany, founded the first confraternity of the rosary at Cologne in 1475. This society spread rapidly, and was specially privileged by Sixtus IV., Innocent VIII. and Leo. X. After the battle of Lepanto (ist Sunday in October 1571), which was won while the members of the confraternity at Rome were making supplication for Christian success, Pius V. ordered an annual commemoration of " St Mary of Victory," and Gregory XIII., by bull of the 1st of April 1583, set aside the 1st Sunday in October as' the feast of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to be observed in such churches as maintained an altar in honour of the rosary. Clement XL, by bull of the 3rd of October 1716, directed the observance of the feast by all Christendom. The devotion has been particularly fostered by the Jesuits, St Ignatius Loyola having expressly ordered its use. It has been repeatedly indulgenced by various popes. Leo XIII. issued eight encyclicals on the devotion; he urged its recitation throughout October, and directed (1883) the insertion of the title regina sacratissimi rosarii in the Litany. There are several varieties of the rosary more or less in use by Roman Catholics: the Passionists, or rosary of the five wounds, approved by Leo XII. in 1823; the Crown of Our Lord, attributed to Michael of Florence, a Camaldolese monk (c. 1516), and consisting of 33 Paters, 5 Aves and a Credo; St Bridget's, 7 Paters and 63 Aves, in honour of the joys and sorrows of the Blessed Virgin and the 63 years of her life. The Living Rosary, in which 15 persons unite to say the rosary every month was approved by Gregory XVI. (1832) and placed in charge of the Dominican order by Pius IX. (1877).
Similar expedients to assist the memory in repetitions of prayers occur among Buddhists and Mahommedans: in the former case the prayers are said on a string of some hundred beads, called the tibel-pren-ba or the len-wa; in the latter case, the so-called tasbih has 33, 66 or 99 beads, and is used for the repetition of the 99 names which express the attributes of God.
See the critical dissertation in the Acta sanctorum, Aug. I, 422 sqq ; Quetif and Echard, Script. Ord. Praed. i. 411 sqq.; Benedict XIV olim Prospero de Lambertini, De festis B.V.M- i. 170 sqq.; H. Holzapfel, O.F.M., St Dominikus u. der Rosenkranz (Munich, 1903) ; Pradel, Rosenkranz-Buchel (Trier, 1885); D. D&hm.Die Bruderschaft torn hi. Rosenkranz (Trier, 1902). For the indulgences attached to the devotion consult Beringer, S.J., Die Ablasse, nthed. 292 ff., 354 ff. (Paderborn, 1895). For the corresponding devotion among Buddhists, consult Waddell, The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism (London, 1895), and an article by Monier Williams in the Athenaeum, 9th of Feb. 1878; for that of the Mahommedans, see L Petit, Les Confreres musulmanes (Paris, 1899), and E. Arnold, Pearls of the Faith, or Islam's Rosary (London, 1882). There is an excellent article, " Rosenkranz," by Zockler in Herzog-Hauck, Realencyklopadie, 3rd ed. vol. 17, pp. 144-50. (C. H. HA.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)