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History of the Rosary

The Holy Rosary is central to Catholic devotion, its history deeply influenced by various popes. This paper navigates the evolution of the Rosary, from its attributed inception by St. Dominic, standardization by Pope Pius V, to the introduction of the Luminous Mysteries by Pope John Paul II. It provides a concise exploration of papal contributions to the Rosary's development, emphasizing their lasting impact on Catholic spirituality.

Pope Francis

9th Century

By tradition, Ireland is the place of origin for the Rosary. At that time, 150 Psalms of David were recited or chanted by Monks at various canonical hours each day. One Irish Monk suggested that the lay people recite 150 Our Fathers instead of the Psalms. Shortly after that, prayer combinations were developed, similar to the current form of the Rosary.

12th Century

Marian Psalters devoted to 150 praises beginning with 'Ave' were introduced.

13th Century

The Blessed Virgin Mary gives St. Dominic The Rosary.

15th Century

The Rosary reaches definitive form through the preaching of the Dominican Alan de la Roche and his associates. He also founds his first confraternity: 'The Confraternity of the Psalter of the Glorious Virgin Mary.'

16th Century

Pope Leo X gives the rosary official approbation. Our Lady of Guadalupe appears to Saint Juan Diego, and her image appears on his garment. She is seen with a rosary draped across her praying hands. Pope Pius V officially approves the Rosary.

17th Century

The Gloria Patri and the Apostles' Creed are added to the Rosary, and the prayer sequence is standardized. St. Louis de Montfort preaches on the Rosary and writes the books True Devotion to Mary, The Secret of Mary, and The Secret of the Rosary. Pope Saint John Paul II states that reading St. Montfort's True Devotion was a turning point in his life.

19th Century

In Lourdes, Saint Bernadette has a vision of a beautiful lady. She has subsequent visions, and The Blessed Virgin Mary identifies herself as The Immaculate Conception. She carried a white rosary with a cross and chain of gold over her right arm.

20th Century

In Fatima, three young peasant children see a woman holding a rosary who identifies herself as the Lady of the Rosary. She tells them to pray the Rosary every day to obtain world peace. Pope Paul VI recommends the praying of the Rosary and issues the Apostolic Letter Marialis Cultus, which devotes 14 sections to using the Rosary within the Roman Catholic Church.

21st Century

Pope Saint John Paul II introduces the Luminous Mysteries as an option for Roman Catholics in an Apostolic Letter on the Rosary, Rosarium Virginis Mariae. After 911, Pope Saint John Paul II asks that everyone pray the Rosary daily for world peace.


Popes and The Rosary

Pope Leo X and Pope Pius V

Pope Leo X was the first to approve the rosary in 1520. This was confirmed and officially approved in 1569 by Pope Pius V.

Pope Leo XIII

"The Rosary Pope" issued twelve Encyclicals and five Apostolic Letters on the Rosary. Between 1883 and 1903, he issued at least one Encyclical on the Rosary each year, generally in preparation for the month of October. He also added the invocation "Queen of the most Holy Rosary" to the Litany of Loreto.

Pope Pius XII

Pope Pius XII issued an Encyclical stressing devotion to the Rosary and advocating supplication to Mary, Mother of God, by means of the Rosary. He actively promoted the veneration of The Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes and Fatima, credited with a significant resurgence of the Rosary within the Catholic Church.

Pope Paul VI

Pope Paul VI restated the role of The Blessed Virgin Mary in the plan of salvation. He said, "The rosary is an exercise of piety that draws its motivating force from the liturgy and leads naturally back to it…." Pope Paul VI strongly encouraged devotion to Mary but also emphasized Trinitarian worship and the study of Christology. To paraphrase, he gave four guidelines for the devotion to Mary:

  • Devotions should have a spiritual basis.

  • Devotions should be in harmony with the liturgy and the liturgical year.

  • Devotions to Mary should have an ecumenical perspective.

  • The Blessed Virgin Mary should be regarded as the perfect disciple.


    Pope Saint John Paul II

    Pope John Paul II tenaciously promoted devotion to the Blessed Mother. He issued the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae, built on the "Total Marian Devotion" pioneered by Saint Louis de Montfort. He also described the Rosary as his favorite prayer. He stated, "The rosary is a marvelous prayer! Marvelous in its simplicity and depth". 


    Pope Saint John Paul II was responsible for including the "Luminous Mysteries" in the Rosary. This is a significant inclusion because it added significant events in the life of Christ. The Luminous Mysteries are The Baptism of Jesus, The Wedding at Cana, The Kingdom of God, The Transfiguration, and The Holy Eucharist.

    Pope Benedict

    Pope Benedict recently said, "The Rosary is experiencing a new springtime. It is one of the most eloquent signs of love that the young generation nourishes for Jesus and his Mother". Pope Benedict supported the Rosary and devotion to The Blessed Virgin Mary.

    Pope Francis

    He has often spoken of the Rosary as a powerful tool for meditation and prayer and encouraged the faithful to pray the Rosary for various intentions, including world peace and during times of global crisis.

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