Prayer Beads: Chaplets

Prayer beads have a long tradition discussed elsewhere. Chaplets have always had a  great deal of variety in structure and the prayers used with them. Unlike the Roman Catholic rosary, chaplets have never had a uniform structure or set of prayers so while I tend to think of my chaplets as Anglican they would not be unusual for other traditions. While a full rosary or prayer rope could be called a chaplet, most chaplets are shorter than the full set of rosary, prayer rope, or paternoster beads.  The number of beads varies in all traditions including Roman Catholic. Catholic chaplets often have ten beads representing one of the decades of the rosary, with an additional one or more beads for the mysteries. On the other hand, 9 beads or more than 10 are not uncommon either. Gardens of Grace has several “tenners” (one decade chaplets) available here.

One significant difference between chaplets and other prayer beads is chaplets are almost always themed. Most chaplets are dedicated to or themed upon the Blessed Virgin Mary or one of the saints. Catholic chaplets often have a saint’s medal instead of a cross. Nine bead sets, (3 sets of 3 beads) are sometimes called ecumenical prayer beads. Anglican chaplets are also often themed on a saint, but still have a cross or crucifix. They can also be themed on a liturgical season or a concept. Some of the first Anglican chaplets were made by GiGi beads, the greatest variety of their chaplets can be seen here.

Most Anglican chaplets have seven week beads, one cruciform bead, an invitatory bead, and cross. This is really based on Roman Catholic one decade rosaries. This is in effect a one week Anglican rosary. I’ve seen some that have two sets of week beads, in effect half an Anglican rosary. I’m not sure why they do two weeks worth unless it simply to make the design simpler. It can be difficult to make a branched chaplet with only seven week beads.  They can be branched like the larger rosary, a single large loop if the cruciform and invitatory beads can be distinguished, or linear in form. It can also be made into a bracelet. I hope to put up some posts on Anglican rosary and chaplet designs. I am also adding a webpage called Bead and Book to collect posts on prayer beads.


3 thoughts on “Prayer Beads: Chaplets

  1. You probably know this, but it’s worth mentioning that one of the early names for the rosary was “Our Lady’s Psalter”, because it grew out of the desire of lay people in the Middle Ages for a simple way to participate in the Liturgy of the Hours (a.k.a. Divine Office), which is based on the 150 Psalms. Illiterate lay brothers and anyone else who could not read (or could not afford a book) were advised to pray 150 Our Fathers instead of the 150 Psalms. This evolved into the most common version of the rosary, which uses a total of 150 Hail Marys — one per psalm.

  2. Chris,

    When did the 150 aves get shortened to 50? While it may be suggested to do the rosary three times to reach 150 aves, most people only do it once. When the rosary is done publicly at church or at a wake, its only done once. This does remind me of wills requesting someone to say 50 psalms for their soul, going along with the Irish three way divided psalter.

    1. The 50 Ave rosary is only 1/3rd of the original 150 beads and represents one set of rosary mysteries. The Dominican Order firmed by St. Dominic used the prayers of the rosary along with meditation on the rosary mysteries to defeat the Albigensian Heresy. The Dominican Rosary Confraternity is online at:
      Obviously the rosary began with the Catholic Church from which the Anglicans broke off. Our Lady of Fatima and Our Lady of Lourdes both encouraged prayer of the rosary to defeat Satan and bring world peace. The rosary honors the incarnation of Our Lord through the Angelic Salutation (another name for the Hail Mary) which is made up of Angel Gabriel’s words and Elizabeth’s words in the first Chapter of Luke. The final part of the Hail Mary was added during the time frame of the Plague when so many people were dying. The Feast of the Holy Rosary is October 7th and honors a miraculous military defeat of the Turkish forces against a very small Catholic fleet. There are many miracles associated with the rosary. John Paul II added the luminous mysteries and according to some books the mysteries of the rosary represent a mystical house. The central mystery of each set of mysteries is the core mystery. The four mysteries surrounding it are the four outer columns. The rosary becomes an ‘angelic wheel’ building the house of God. This is alluded to in the book of Ezekiel 10:9:
      Douay-Rheims Bible
      And I saw, and behold there were four wheels by the cherubims: one wheel by one cherub, and another wheel by an- other cherub: and the appearance of the wheels was to the sight like the chrysolite stone:

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