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What are the different kinds of rosaries?

What Are the Different Types of Rosaries?

Many of us are familiar with the standard, five decade rosary, the centuries-old favorite devotion of Roman Catholics throughout the world. An ornate crucifix on a strand of rosary beads is an image that most associate with devout and faithful prayer. But sometimes confusion arises with other terms, such as “chaplet” or “Franciscan rosary.” Aren’t they all the same? Well, not quite. The term rosary is used for various sets of prayers counted on beads, but the prayers may vary from those used in the Dominican Rosary – the most widely known form of the rosary. Additionally, there are some rosaries that use the standard prayers, but serve a specific purpose, like the wedding rosary. Here is some clarification on some of those different rosary terms.

Five Decade Rosary

Glass White Cloissonne Pewter RosaryThe five decade rosary is the one most people picture when they hear the word rosary. It consists of a crucifix, then a short set of 5 beads, for praying the Our Father, 3 Hail Marys, and a Glory Be, and then a rosary center, followed by a loop of 5 decades (sets of ten beads) to count the Hail Marys prayed as one meditates on the mysteries of the rosary, with a bead for praying the Our Father between each decade. This traditional rosary (both the physical strand of beads and the prayer) is also known as the Dominican Rosary, due to St. Dominic’s role in encouraging and spreading devotion to the holy rosary at the request of the Blessed Mother.

Franciscan Rosaries

Franciscan CrownThe Franciscan Rosary can refer to two different rosaries associated with the Franciscan order. One is the Franciscan Crown, sometimes called a seven decade rosary. As the name suggests, it consists of 7 decades, rather than 5, plus two additional Hail Mary beads, for a total of 72 Hail Mary beads. When praying the Franciscan Crown rosary, one is to meditate on the seven joys of Mary, one joy per each decade. The seven joys are the Annunciation, the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the Nativity of Jesus, Epiphany, the presentation of Jesus in the temple, the Resurrection of Jesus, and the Assumption & coronation of Mary.
The Franciscan Rosary can also refer to a fifteen-decade rosary. Prior to 2002, when Pope John Paul II instituted the addition of the 5 luminous mysteries, the three sets of the mysteries of the rosary (glorious, sorrowful, and joyful) added up to a total of 15 mysteries. When one would pray a fifteen decade rosary, all fifteen mysteries were meditated upon. One could simply use a standard size rosary and continue around the loop to pray the full fifteen, or now twenty, decades, but a strand of rosary beads consisting of 15 decades of beads was common as well. Franciscan rosary is also a term that may be used to describe a standard five decade rosary with a Franciscan Tau cross in place of the crucifix many are accustomed to seeing.


St. Dymphna ChapletThe word chaplet simply comes from the French word for Rosary, which is chapelet, but the term has now come to be associated with specific sets of prayers, intended to ask the help of Mary, Jesus, or the saints. The standard five decade rosary is in fact a chaplet, but chaplets can vary in size, in pattern or grouping of beads, and in the prayers said on each bead. Typically, the basic prayers, such as the Hail Mary and Our Father are still recited, but chaplets commonly also include prayers to a specific image of Christ or Mary, a particular saint or angel, or a litany. Often, a chaplet is based on a certain intention, and so prayers to the patron saint of that intention or subject will be included.
Divine Mercy ChapletOne of the most common chaplets in recent years is the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a chaplet Jesus instructed St. Maria Faustina to pray. It can be said anytime, especially for the dead or dying, but is also often said as part of the Divine Mercy novena which lasts from Good Friday to Divine Mercy Sunday. Another popular chaplet is the St. Joseph Chaplet, a set of prayers asking for the protection and intercession of St. Joseph.

Servite Chaplet or Rosary

Seven Sorrow RosaryThough it can be prayed by anyone, the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Mary is especially connected to the Servite Order (also called Servants of Mary) and so this unique chaplet is commonly referred to as the Servite Rosary. Rather than decades, it consists of seven sets of seven beads; the sets of seven beads are called ‘weeks.’ Where the Franciscan Crown is focused on the seven joys of Mary, the Servite chaplet is focused specifically on the seven sorrows, or dolors, of Mary. These are the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the temple, Mary meeting Jesus on the road to Calvary, the Crucifixion, Jesus being taken down from the cross, and the laying of Jesus’s body in the tomb. The intent behind the Servite rosary is a devotion to Mary and the real pain she suffered in watching and sharing in Jesus’s pain, as we are called to share in Jesus’s suffering as well.

Wedding Rosary

Lasso RosaryThe wedding rosary, also called a lasso, or lazo, rosary is an over-sized rosary formed of two rosaries joined together at the center. The lasso rosary will share a crucifix, the first five beads, and the rosary center, with two, rather than one, loops of 5 decades each. The lasso rosary is part of a wedding ceremony, especially in Hispanic culture, where the loops of the rosary are put over the head of the bride and groom by the priest. This is symbolic of the joining of the two in God; their prayer lives will now be joined as well. Since the rosary is to be placed over the heads of both the bride and groom, the beads are typically oversized with larger spaces between beads in order to make the rosary long enough. While the use of the lasso rosary is largely figurative, it can also be used after the wedding for the husband and wife to pray the rosary together.

One Decade Rosary

The one decade rosary is, as it sounds, a rosary consisting of only one decade. They are sometimes called pocket rosaries or tenners. The idea behind the one decade rosary is that it is easy to carry around and use for prayer. After the crucifix on a one decade rosary, the initial 5 beads (for saying the Our Father, 3 Hail Marys and a Glory Be) are commonly represented with only one bead. After the rosary center is one decade, one set of ten beads. Some chaplet instructions come with a one decade rosary, and you can also use a one decade rosary to pray five, or even the full 20 mysteries, by circling around and using the ten beads to count for as many decades as needed. The one decade rosary closely resembles the prayer beads or prayer ropes which have been in use in the Eastern churches (both Catholic and Orthodox) from the earliest years.
There are also a few specific types of one decade rosaries:

Auto Rosary:

Franciscan Auto RosaryThis one decade rosary is the same as one described above but with one difference. Rather than a continuous unbroken loop, there is a clasp in the middle of the set of ten beads. This is in place so that the rosary may be hooked around a rearview mirror, and used for prayer in the car. The clasp is also useful for clipping the rosary to the steering wheel while praying so you do not drop the beads while driving.

Rosary Bracelet:

Rosary BraceletThis is a one decade rosary meant to be worn on the wrist. The bracelet varies slightly from the appearance of the standard one decade rosary. The rosary bracelet has one decade plus one Our Father bead, but rather than a center and a dangling crucifix, there will often be a miraculous medal and small, charm sized crucifix or cross hung together, or a cross shaped bead in place of the hanging crucifix. The bracelet is not intended to be a fashion statement but rather a way to easily bring a rosary with you, to be used for prayer. In the Middle Ages and beyond, it was not uncommon for people to hang a rosary from their waist, which they could easily reach for and use to pray with at any time. Many religious orders still do this, but for many other people, hanging a long rosary from their waist would be impractical. However, the rosary bracelet can be worn easily and so it can be used anywhere as a prayer aid.

Rosary Rings and Finger Rosaries

Finger RosaryA rosary ring can be an actual wearable ring, or it can also be a small, mini one decade rosary to tuck into a wallet or purse, or on a key ring. These non-wearable rings are also called finger rosaries. Similar to the bracelet, there is a crucifix, followed by ten little bumps or beads for the decade. The idea of a small, easily transportable rosary one could reach for and pray with anytime stands true for the rosary ring as well.


  1. Great post! It’s really interesting to learn about the traditions other than the Dominican one we all know about. What about the Carthusian rosary? I know that order has a particular way of praying the rosary, too.

  2. Old_Conservative

    Just ran across a very unique rosary consisting of a medal with the holy family on one side & the dove of peace on the other and consisting of 5 sets of beads in a 2 and 7 pattern, with 3 beads between the crucifix and the main rosary. Any ideas about this one?? I’m researching it now.

  3. I have a rosary that’s printed on a credit-card-sized card with “bumps” for each bead, meant to be carried in the wallet.

  4. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/193249df625df6bee546332b4c35ba70f9ae4d4841de483d2a80f7f856b85145.jpg I have a beautiful antique three decade rosary. It doesn’t appear to be altered i.e. I don’t believe or see evidence that any decades have been removed. Is there such a thing as a three decade rosary? They’re full decades so I don’t believe it’s a ste Anne

  5. CeraisianAlchemist

    Maybe somebody can help me if I post this here. I have a rosary that belonged to my grandmother and I can’t figure out what it is. It doesn’t look like a normal rosary (5 decades with 1 bead in between). This rosary in particular has 6 decades, which sounds like a Brigittine rosary, but it has two beads in between each decade and it has only 4 beads between the crucifix and the center. I’ve been looking around the internet for MONTHS and I still can’t figure out what on Earth it is. Has anybody seen anything similar to it or have any idea on what it is?

  6. I have a wooden rosary which has a Tao cross and fifty wooden beads. Is it some Franciscan rosary?


  7. I have metal beads: four sets of five beads to be worn around the neck, has a clasp in the back and has a hanging cross with another smaller cross next to it and came over from Italy with a neighbors uncle. No survivor knows anything about it. I wonder if you have any idea.

  8. I have also found a unique Rosary or at least I think it is.
    6 beads then 3 beads between 14 stations?

  9. I also have an unusual rosary. It has 10 regular decades, not a wedding lasso rosary. The medallion reads ” O MARIE CONCUE SANS PECHEP.P.N. The crucifix also has a skull below the feet. Can you tell me anything about this?

  10. I have a rosary that looks like a 5 decade rosary, except it has 8 sections of 8 beads. Is this a Divine Mercy type of rosary?
    I’m not sure how the prayers should be on this particular rosary.
    Thank you for your response.
    God Bless you.

  11. I have looked into the various types of rosaries and chaplet that are in existence, and there are about 75 separate patterns. Then you add in the changes of medal for different saints and it shoots up even higher!

  12. I came across a rosary that has the 9 decades after the first prayers of the rosary with 3 beads and then one in between and ut had St Michael and St Benadict on the metals. Which rosary is and hue do you pray it?

  13. Pauline Barrington

    Dear Sirs,
    Someone bought me a rosary/chaplet. I have never seen the like before but I collect them. This one has a medal of the Holy Family on one side and on the other a Cross, one bead, then another medal with the Holy family on both sides. It then has fifteen decades consisting of three beads and one bead in between.

    Please confirm if you know what it is and what prayers usually accompany it. Thank you.

  14. My grandmother’s rosary (or older) has 33 beads and a medal depicting Jesus (I think) holding a chalice and he has his right arm around the shoulders of a young man. The other side of the medal says, ‘Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament have mercy on us’. Below that it says, ‘300 days indulgence (then a few unreadable letters) 300 days each time.’ What kind of rosary is this? Or, is it even a rosary?

  15. I have never used a rosary and I found one am interested in using it, but I can’t find any material on this particular one. the Cross, followed by 1 bead, then 3, then the loop starts with 8, 1, 10, 1, 8, 1, 10, 1, then a 9. Does that make sense? Is there material for this?

  16. my mother who was born in 1941 gave me an envelope with her rosary beads in it that she was given as a child. The beads are broken apart, but there two sections that have 6 beads, followed by a single. I presume this is for six Hail Mary’s and one Our Father. It has both a medal with Mary (no inscriptions) and a square cross that reminds me of a Maltese cross. I cannot find any references to this combination on line, are you able to help?

  17. In my mothers things, we found a rosary….crucifix, then three beads, then nothing in the joining. From the joining: 6 decades composed of 5 beads each. (No bead between the decades.)
    Any idea what it is and the prayers to be said on it?
    Thank you!

  18. Ronald Schutte Vista Ca.

    My mother a a very devoted Catholic left me when she passed a Rosary. Its silver with 14
    deccetts all with an enterior 3 bead separartion. the cross is much larger with a man and
    a women holding at the waist. it says on the box HIRTEN 1922. any ideas?

  19. Did u ever hear of a rosary with 3 sets of 11 beads, divided by 4 beads in between. There are 45 beads in total. 11 red, 4 gold etc

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