Hello my dear Rosary lovers! The question of this post is: How many beads are on a Rosary?
At rosarylovers.com, we love the Rosary and rosary beads. We highly recommend using the beads.
But not everyone knows much about rosary beads, so let this be something of an introduction 🙂
Drum roll …
The standard Rosary contains 59 beads.
Here is a picture of a Rosary:
There are 5 beads after the crucifix, then there are 50 Hail Mary beads in the main part of the Rosary.
You can see the 50 Hail Mary beads, because they are all clumped together in sets of 10s.
There are 4 Our Father beads in the main part of the Rosary.
You can notice these because they are isolated, with two bits of white string either side of them.
5 + 50 + 4 = 59 beads.
On a standard Rosary.
Why are there 59 beads?
There is no significance to the number 59, surprisingly.
There is, however, significance to the number 50. There are, as I said, 50 Hail Mary beads in the main part of the Rosary.
They come in sets of 10, and so we have 5 sets of 10 beads clustered together. That’s 50 beads.
The number 50 doesn’t mean much on it’s own, but when it is multiplied by 3, you get 150.
150 is an important number.
150 … So what?
150 is the number of Psalms in the Catholic Bible. The Psalms are the hymn book of the Church and have always been recited by the Church.
To this day, the Church recites the Psalms daily in the Divine Office, also known as the Liturgy of the Hours (click here for the Divine Office).
Priests and Bishops HAVE to pray these prayers daily.
In fact, this is so important, that Priests are not obligated to say Mass everyday in their churches. But they ARE obligated to pray the Divine Office everyday.
The Church regards the daily recitation of the Psalms to be apparently MORE IMPORTANT (at least in some sense) than the daily celebration of the Mass! Who knew?
The Divine Office is FILLED with the Psalms. That’s how highly the Church regards the Psalms.
OK, what does this have to do with the Rosary?
A lot, actually.
In the past, the laity would not be able to recite the Psalms because they either didn’t have access to a Psalter or a Bible, or they couldn’t read.
They also were not paid to pray. The clergy were paid to pray. The laity had to engage in other forms of work and therefore didn’t have time to recite the 150 Psalms over and over.
So how were the laity to pray along with the Church? Couldn’t the laity join in?
The Church developed a really incredible and simple way for the laity to pray a lot daily. A substitute for the Divine Office and the Psalms.
It is called the most Holy Rosary!
The laity would recite one Hail Mary for one Psalm. Since there are 150 Psalms in the Bible, the laity would recite 150 Hail Marys as a replacement.
This was a lot shorter than reciting all of the Psalms. The Psalms take about 4-5 hours to recite. 150 Hail Marys would take less than 1 hour.
The Rosary developed out of this practice, so that now we have the Rosary as we have it today.
- 15 mysteries on the life of Christ
- 15 Our Fathers
- 150 Hail Marys
- 15 Glory Bes
The only number of significance here is 150.
The Rosary was originally 150 Hail Marys long.
Over time, the Church recognised that this was too much for ordinary Catholics. So the Church split the Rosary up into 3 sections:
- The Joyful mysteries of 50 Hail Marys
- The Sorrowful mysteries of 50 Hail Marys
- The Glorious mysteries of 50 Hail Marys
To go with this dividing up of the Rosary, the Rosary beads were produced with only 50 Hail Mary beads in the main section of the Rosary, instead of 150.
These are the many rosaries we see today. They only have 50 Hail Mary beads. To pray the 150 Hail Marys, one must go through the rosary beads in a circle 3 times.
So why does the Rosary have 59 beads, not 50?
Because the 50 beads only account for the 50 Hail Mary beads. But the Rosary isn’t just saying the Hail Mary.
It’s also saying the Our Father.
For every 50 Hail Marys, you say 5 Our Fathers.
But as it happens, one of the Our Father beads is NOT in the main section of the Rosary, strangely.
So this accounts for 55 beads. 5 Our Father beads and 50 Hail Mary beads.
OK, that’s 55. What about the other 4?
The four beads just after the crucifix are not of the essence of the Rosary. They are used for introductory prayers, which can vary.
Catholics pray different introductory prayers, but the most popular is the one which has been preserved in the Rosary beads:
- 1 Our Father (traditionally for the intentions of the Pope)
- 3 Hail Marys (traditionally for faith, hope and charity)
So those are your other 4 beads.
Meaning that we end up with a number – 59 – which has no significance at all, so far as I can tell.
So there it is. That’s how many beads are on a Rosary and why.
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If you have any questions about the Rosary, then please let me know and I’ll try and answer them.
4 Replies to “How Many Beads are on a Rosary?”
This is an interesting discussion about the rosary beads and their significance. Especially of the 50 beads for the Hail Marys for each mystery. And the significance of praying 50 times in lieu of the Psalms in the bible.
Aside from really praying to the Blessed Mary and to Jesus during the recitation of the rosary, holding the rosary beads in your fingers/hand signify that we are like holding hands with our mother in heaven, which is a very reassuring gesture.
That’s a beautiful thought, thank you. Yes, I get great comfort holding the Rosary beads, even if I’m not actually praying. This in itself is very powerful.
God bless you
It’s amazing to learn about how many beads are on a rosary. Never knew that the amount of beads represents a bible versus the cross. Can the rosary beads be of different colors? I found this article to be very helpful and learning about the Rosary beads and I have shared your content with my social media followers.
I appreciate you sharing the content, thank you very much. It’s great for my site.
Yes, yes, rosary beads come in all sorts of different colours! The string also that holds it all together can be all sorts of colours.
I’ve got a lush rosary somewhere that’s got a gold crucifix, stainless steel beads, and a green paracord string that holds it all together. It’s a big bulky so I use instead my much simpler one that I got from that company I recommend at the end of the post. It’s just a simple silver-looking crucifix with olive-wood beads, held together with a dark greyish paracord string.
Much smaller and much more accessible, especially when I’m at work. I can keep it in my pocket and take it out when I’m on break or walking to and fro from work.
All the different colours etc. are wonderful and I wouldn’t mind collecting a few more rosaries (so long as they’re paracord, the rest have all broken on me). But God loves simplicity, so I appreciate that he found me a nice simple rosary 🙂