"In many ancient books...many beautiful stories and accounts of miracles related to the Rosary are read. From these facts one deduces that preaching the Rosary and convincing others to pray it, or becoming a member of the Fraternity that bears its name, does not constitute something new but is merely the renewal of an ancient devotion, temporarily abolished in some places."
From Alanus de Rupe sponsus novellus beatissime Virginis Mariae, 1458

St. Dominic and the Rosary


We owe the Rosary in its present form to St. Dominic, its author. This great Saint, much afflicted in seeing entire regions of Southern France infested by the Albigensian heresies, had recourse to the Most Holy Virgin, who revealed to him this very same devotion in 1206, also assuring him that she would prove to be the efficacious remedy for all these ills. (Taken from the SSPX publication "Christian Warfare")


15 Promises made by Our Lady to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan
  1. To those who faithfully recite my Rosary, I promise my special protection and very great graces.
  2. Those who persevere in recitating my Rosary shall receive signal graces.
  3. The Rosary shall be a powerful armor against hell; it shall destroy vice, free from sin, and dispel heresy.
  4. It shall make virtue and good works flourish, and shall obtain for souls abundant divine mercies; it will lift our hearts to desire heavenly and eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means!
  5. Those who trust themselves to me through reciting the Rosary, shall not perish.
  6. Those who will recite my Rosary piously, devoutly considering its Mysteries, shall not be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise the sinner who is converted; he shall grow in grace and become worthy of eternal life.
  7. Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the sacraments of the Church, or without grace.
  8. Those who faithfully recite my Rosary shall find during their life and at their death the light of God, the fullness of His grace, and shall share in the merits of the blessed in paradise.
  9. I shall quickly deliver from purgatory those souls who have been devoted to reciting my Rosary.
  10. The true children of my Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in heaven.
  11. You shall obtain all you ask for for while reciting my Rosary.
  12. I shall help all those who will propagate the Rosary.
  13. I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
  14. All who recite my Rosary faithfully are my beloved children, brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
  15. Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination

The Rosary in Britain

 

Long before the time of St. Dominic, there existed in Britain a form of the Rosary remarkably similar to our Rosary of today, at least in its main elements. Two means of devotion to Our Lady were popular; that of frequent repetition of the Angelic Salutation by the use of counting-beads, and that of the Ave-Psalter with its hundred-and-fifty prayers and meditations.

            As early as Saxon times, strings of beads were used as prayer aids, upon which devotees would count a varying number of Hail Marys. They were not yet called “Rosaries”, but “Ave Beads” or “Paternosters”. In fact, it is due to this Saxon devotion that the word “bead” has its meaning today. Fr. Bridgett in his work “Our Lady’s Dowry” that “it is the past participle of the Saxon verb biddan, to bid, to invite, to pray…to “bid the beads” was merely to say one’s prayers…but as a custom was introduced in the very early times of counting prayers said by use of little grains or pebbles strung together, the name of prayer got attached to the instrument used for saying prayers.”[1]

            The Marian scholar Edmund Waterton makes a convincing case for the belief that the Psalter of Our Lady originated in England. He points out that, before the Rosary as taught by St. Dominic, there was the English tradition of praying one hundred and fifty Aves to represent the one hundred and fifty psalms, and that, in the West, there is strong evidence to suggest this was begun by either St. Anselm or St. Thomas of Canterbury.

            St. Anselm, Archbishop of Canterbury, remarked in one of his letters that he had composed a long prayer in three parts to Our Lady, although he did not elaborate upon its content. St. Anselm died in 1109; a manuscript dated 1200 includes a Lady-Psalter with his name, and a second manuscript of the same date contains one that was left uninscribed. Despite this, however, the Saga of St. Thomas of Canterbury says of the martyr:

            “He was of all men the first to find…how to draw some meditation out of every Psalm in the Psalter, out of which meditation he afterwards made verses of praise to Our Layde.”[2]

            The seeming contradiction between the two sources is explained thus by Waterton: St. Thomas frequently used a book containing prayers composed by his predecessor St. Anselm, and it is most likely that he had written the verses he himself had composed on Our Lady into this book. Over the course of time, later scholars had mistakenly attributed St. Thomas’s work to St. Anselm, explaining the two manuscripts of 1200. “The evidence…goes to show that the composition and use of these Psalm-Psalters and Ave-Psalters originated in England; and therefore that the original seed of the Beads of the Rosary germinated in the Dower of Our Lady long anterior to the days of St. Dominic.”[3] 

            English zeal for the Rosary continued even when Continental fervour waned severely. Waterton comments that it had “fallen into almost total disuse on the Continent, prior to the revival of the Confraternity at Cologne in the year 1475; whereas in England it was the popular devotion to Our Lady, and its use universal with all classes. This is satisfactorily proved by numberless wills and inventories of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.”[4]


St. Dominic and the Rosary

(taken from St. Louis De Montforte's The Secret of the Rosary)

It was only in the year 1214, however, that the Church
received the Rosary in its present form and according to the
method we use today. It was given to the Church by St. Dominic,
who had received it from the Blessed Virgin as a means of
converting the Albigensians and other sinners.
I will tell you the story of how he received it, which is
found in the very well-known book De Dignitate Psalterii, by
Blessed Alan de la Roche. Saint Dominic, seeing that the gravity
of people's sins was hindering the conversion of the
Albigensians, withdrew into a forest near Toulouse, where he
prayed continuously for three days and three nights. During this
time he did nothing but weep and do harsh penances in order to
appease the anger of God. He used his discipline so much that his
body was lacerated, and finally he fell into a coma.
At this point our Lady appeared to him, accompanied by three
angels, and she said, "Dear Dominic, do you know which weapon the
Blessed Trinity wants to use to reform the world?"
"Oh, my Lady," answered Saint Dominic, "you know far better
than I do, because next to your Son Jesus Christ you have always
been the chief instrument of our salvation."
Then our Lady replied, "I want you to know that, in this
kind of warfare, the principal weapon has always been the Angelic
Psalter, which is the foundation-stone of the New Testament.
Therefore, if you want to reach these hardened souls and win them
over to God, preach my Psalter."
So he arose, comforted, and burning with zeal for the
conversion of the people in that district, he made straight for
the cathedral. At once unseen angels rang the bells to gather the
people together, and Saint Dominic began to preach.
At the very beginning of his sermon, an appalling storm
broke out, the earth shook, the sun was darkened, and there was
so much thunder and lightning that all were very much afraid.
Even greater was their fear when, looking at a picture of our
Lady exposed in a prominent place, they saw her raise her arms
to heaven three times to call down God's vengeance upon them if
they failed to be converted, to amend their lives, and seek the
protection of the holy Mother of God.
God wished, by means of these supernatural phenomena, to
spread the new devotion of the holy Rosary and to make it more
widely known.
At last, at the prayer of Saint Dominic, the storm came to
an end, and he went on preaching. So fervently and compellingly
did he explain the importance and value of the Rosary that almost
all the people of Toulouse embraced it and renounced their false
beliefs. In a very short time a great improvement was seen in the
town; people began leading Christian lives and gave up their
former bad habits
.

Feast of the Holy Rosary

(Taken from the Catholic Encylopedia)

Apart from the defeat of the Albigensian heretics  at the battle of Muret in 1213, attributed to the recitation of the Rosary by St. Dominic, it is believed that Heaven has on many occasions rewarded the faith of those who had recourse to this devotion in times of special danger. More particularly, the naval victory of Lepanto gained by Don John of Austria over the Turkish fleet on the first Sunday of October in 1571 responded wonderfully to the processions made in Rome on that same day by the members of the Rosary confraternity. St. Pius V thereupon ordered that a commemoration of the Rosary should be made upon that day, and at the request of the Dominican Order Gregory XIII in 1573 allowed this feast to be kept in all churches which possessed an altar dedicated to the Holy Rosary. In 1671 the observance of this festival was extended by Clement X to the whole of Spain, and somewhat later Clement XI after the important victory over the Turks gained by Prince Eugene on 6 August, 1716 (the feast of our Lady of the Snows), at Peterwardein in Hungary, commanded the feast of the Rosary to be celebrated by the universal Church. A set of "proper" lessons in the second nocturn were conceded by Benedict XIII. Leo XIII has since raised the feast to the rank of a double of the second class and has added to the Litany of Loreto "Queen of the Most the Holy Rosary". On this feast, in every church in which the Rosary confraternity has been duly erected, a plenary indulgence toties quoties is granted upon certain conditions to all who visit therein.

[1] Fr. T.E. Bridgett, Our Lady’s Dowry (Burns and Oates, London, 1892) Chapter V: Beads and Bells


[2] As quoted by Edmund Waterton, in Pietas Mariana Britannica: A History of English Devotion of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Chapter Three “Devotions and Good Works: The Beads”.