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‘Count On Me’ Is Mantra Of Rosaries
Through The Ages


The traditional 59-bead rosary consists of a circle known as the corona. It contains five sets of ten beads called the Ave beads. There are four larger beads between each group of ten known as Pater beads. The rosary begins with a pendant, consisting of a crucifix, a Pater bead, three Ave beads and another Pater bead. A center medal connects the pendant to the corona.

People of many faiths, through the years, have used some form of counters to mark their prayers. In today’s society, the best known of these is probably the Roman Catholic rosary. They are the subject of The Rosary Collector’s Guide, by Gloria Brady Hoffner and Helen Hoffner.

The rosary in use by Roman Catholics today is derived from the 150 Psalms of David and goes back to earliest Christian times. In the 9th century, an Irish monk, recognizing these were way too much for the illiterate population to memorize, suggested using 150 recitations of the Lord’s Prayer as a substitute. At first, the people kept track by using pebbles, notches on wood, or knotted cords. Eventually, these were replaced by strings of 150 beads.

The number was reduced to 59 beads in the 15th century, and organized into groups of small beads, separated by larger beads.

Rosaries have been made of many materials, from precious gems to seeds. One will find them made of wood, glass, metal, Bakelite, plastic, gold and silver, as well as the precious gems and seeds already mentioned.

The earliest rosaries were black or brown. Later ones have come in many colors, with the colors being symbolic. One example given is a rosary with white, black, yellow and red beads, for the four races of man, and blue for Mother Earth.

Many ancient rosaries were made of amber. It was considered to have magical properties and was used as a natural remedy for pain relief, protection against disease and to promote quick healing. In the 15th century the Catholic Church seized control of all amber collections and stopped production of amber items; it was forbidden to use amber in anything that did not have religious significance.

Among the beads used in modern times for rosaries are Aurora Borealis beads, made by lining the interior of transparent beads with pink, blue, green and yellow material; bubble beads, made of a clear Lucite containing an image of a religious figure or holy water; carnival glass beads; cloisonne beads; coral; metal filigree; Murano glass; and much more.

While a traditional rosary consists of 59 beads with a definite order of prayers, a chaplet may be any number of beads. Chaplets encourage specific prayers to a specific saint. Most are small and will have a small medal of the saint attached.

The Rosary Collector’s Guide is a Schiffer publication. In hardback, it is priced at $34.99. Check with your local bookseller or see the online catalog,

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