What is a Paternoster Rosary? About Historical Paternoster Prayer Beads

What is a Paternoster Rosary?

Paternoster refers to the prayer most often used with these historical prayer beads, which begins with the words "Our Father, who art in Heaven", arguably the most common prayer in all of Christianity. In Latin, "Paternoster" is "Our Father".  The Ave Maria or "Hail, Mary," another popular prayer, was often added after the Pater Noster.  This may have been the pre-cursor to what we now know as the Holy Rosary.

Historic Paternoster Rosary - Medieval Paternoster Rosary

Historical evidence shows that the Paternosters began to appear in the 11th century! Paternoster beads were first formed into a straight line of beads with a loop or tassel on one end. The beads used to pray the Hail Mary were, in period, referred to as “Aves.” The Our Father beads were usually referred to as “gauds.” A paternoster might be called a pair of beads, a paternoster, a chaplet, or a rosary. Sometimes a carved skull bead would be added. Later during the 1400s, crosses were added to one end and then by the 1500s, the 5 decade looped rosary with a cross became popular. 

Memento Mori Pater Noster - Catholic Paternoster

By the end of the medieval period they were probably the most common item carried by the Europeans of all classes. Rosary beads were considered a sign of piety, and depending on their materials and beauty, a sign of your station in life. They were often given as marriage gifts and made of precious materials such as coral, crystal, or amber as in this famous painting by Jan van Eyck known as the Arnolfi Marriage. Note the paternosters hanging to the left of the mirror.

paternoster rosary in medieval art

 We handmake Olde World Paternoster rosaries in much the same style as the centuries old Paternoster beads of medieval Europe.

Paternoster - black paternoster rosary - historic pater noster beads