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A string of beads used in counting prayers, each bead being named after the prayer it represents. The modern rosary is divided into 15 groups of beads, with each decade (group of 10 small beads, of which is known as an ave) being preceded by a paternoster bead and usually followed by a gloria bead (sometimes a single bead serving as the paternoster and the gloria).
Strictly, a rosary originally consisted of 3 chaplets each composed of 15 decades and 15 paternosters; since the Middle Ages the number of beads has varied. Attached to a rosary is usually a crucifix, a cross or an ornamental trinket (called a Gaud), and sometimes a finger ring. The larger beads were often made of gold or silver (sometimes engraved or enamelled) or of carved ivory or boxwood, or hollow with interior figures decorated in émail en ronde bosse, and the smaller beads have been made of many materials, including hardstones, coral, jet, jade, amber, glass, wood, etc.
A rosary was sometimes worn by a woman as a necklace or bracelet, and by a man tucked into his belt. The rosary was first used by the Eastern Christian Church and was brought to Western Christendom by the Crusaders; it is used also by the Moslems, Buddhists, and Hinuds.
From: An Illustrated Dictionary of Jewelry, autor: Harold Newman, publishers: Thames and Hudson
The Rosary (from Latin rosarium, meaning "rose garden" or "garland of roses") is a popular traditional Roman Catholic devotion. The term denotes both a set of prayer beads and the devotional prayer itself, which combines vocal (or silent) prayer and meditation. The prayers consist of repeated sequences of the Lord's Prayer followed by ten recitations of the Hail Mary and a single recitation of "Glory Be to the Father"; each of these sequences is known as a decade. The recitation of each decade is accompanied by meditation on one of the Mysteries of the Rosary, which are events in the lives of Jesus Christ and his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The traditional fifteen Mysteries of the Rosary were finalized by the 16th century. The mysteries are grouped into three sets: the joyful mysteries, the glorious mysteries, and the sorrowful mysteries. In 2002, Pope John Paul II announced five new optional mysteries, the luminous mysteries, bringing the total number of mysteries to twenty.
The Roman Catholic emphasis on the rosary is part of the Roman Catholic focus on Mariology, as exemplified by Pope John Paul II's Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae which builds on the "total Marian devotion" pioneered by Saint Louis de Montfort. On the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary is celebrated on October 7.
The rosary is sometimes used by other Christians, especially in the Anglican Communion and the Old Catholic Church, and also by some Lutherans. Evangelical Protestants, however, such as Baptists and Presbyterians do not use it and actively discourage their members from using this method of prayer.
Many similar prayer practices exist in popular Roman Catholicism, each with its own set of prescribed prayers and its own form of prayer beads. These other devotions and their associated beads are usually referred to as "chaplets."