The origin of the word “rosary” comes from an ancient medieval custom that consisted in putting a crown of roses on the statues of the Virgin. These roses were the symbol of the “beauty” and the “perfume” of the prayers to Mary. This is how the idea of using a bead necklace (or crown) to guide the meditation was born. In the 13th
century, the Cistercian monks developed a new prayer from this necklace, which they called the Rosary, comparing it with a crown of roses offered to the Virgin.
This devotion was popularized by Saint Dominic, who received the first rosary from the Virgin Mary in 1214 in the first of a series of apparitions as a means of converting non-believers and sinners. Before Saint Dominic, it was a common practice to pray the “Rosary of Our Father”, which consisted of reciting the Our Father according to the number of beads on a necklace.
In 1571, the year of the battle of Lepanto and at the time of the invasion of the Muslim Turks, Pope Pius V asked Christians to pray the Rosary to ask for liberation from the Ottoman threat. The victory of the Christian fleet, on October 7, was attributed to the intercession of the Virgin Mary. In gratitude, the Pope incorporated that day into the liturgical calendar under the name of the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Other personalities also contributed to the spread of this prayer such as the blessed Alain de la Roche (or Alano de Rupe) with his “Psalter of Christ and Mary” in 1478, Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort in his book “The admirable secret of the Rosary”, and the blessed Bartolo Longo. Another great impetus occurred in the 19th
centuries with the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes, France and in Fatima, Portugal.