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Judy Devine wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Can you please explain how many decades make up a complete Rosary and what the five decades of the Rosary are called?

I have heard them called a chaplet.


  { How many decades make up a complete Rosary and what are the five decades called? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Judy —

The term "chaplet", in your sense, is suggested by the Catholic Encyclopedia, but more often
I associate it (by extension, perhaps) with certain prayers that aren't "the Rosary", as traditionally prayed, but prayed on a Rosary nonetheless; such as the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.

As for, what is a "complete Rosary"? It depends on what you mean. According to the (Old) Roman Breviary, as cited by the Catholic Encyclopedia, above:

"The Rosary is a certain form of prayer wherein we say fifteen decades or tens of Hail Mary's with an Our Father between each ten, while at each of these fifteen decades we recall successively in pious meditation one of the mysteries of our Redemption."

We can extend this to twenty mysteries now, owing to Blessed John Paul II's introduction of the Luminous Mysteries, but usually when people say it, a "Rosary" is five mysteries prayed together, which is what you see counted out on most Rosaries. So normally, when someone says,

"I prayed a Rosary."

they mean they prayed the five joyful mysteries, or the five luminous mysteries, or the five sorrowful mysteries, or the five glorious mysteries.

The Rosary is an object and a prayer which is usually said in sets of five decades.

It gets more complicated because, while what I've described as a typical, "Rosary", as a term,
is not limited to these prayers. There can be more decades or fewer; here "Rosary" just means
a set of prayer beads.


Judy replied:

Hi, Eric —

Thank you for your help.

I saw on one Catholic site where the entire Rosary was 20 decades and most people prayed one of the Mysteries which is, of course, five decades. I have rarely seen the complete or entire Rosary referred to; it appears to be difficult to find.

Thank you again,

Judy Devine

Eric replied:

Hi, Judy —

I'm not sure what you mean by "difficult to find".

When people say the complete Rosary is 20 decades, they mean the prayer is 20 decades, that is, taking your Rosary beads and repeating (five decades: See this image), four times.

There is not a set of Rosary beads that has twenty decades on one physical Rosary, or at least
I have never seen one.


Mike replied:

Hi, Judy —

Thanks for the question.

Just to add to what Eric has said:

There are 20 decades in a complete Rosary; here is an on-line version.

Each set of five decades refer to a portion of Our Lord and His Blessed Mother's Life:

  • the Joyful [mysteries|moments] of their life
  • the Luminous [mysteries|moments] of their life
  • the Sorrowful [mysteries|moments] of their life, and
  • the Glorious [mysteries|moments] of their life.

Each of these sets of five decades give the Christian an easy way to reflect on the life of Christ and His Blessed Mother based on the Holy Scriptures. The Rosary prayers we pray are generally made up from Scripture passages themselves.

A chaplet is usually a similar devotional that is smaller in size than the Rosary. Chaplets give honor and veneration to other saints or angels and are pious customs the Church encourages.

They are totally separate from any worship we give to [God|Jesus] alone, though there are chaplets dedicated to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Conception of Mary. Nevertheless these are devotionals.

Examples of other chaplets I've heard of are the:

Hope this answers your question.


Judy replied:

Thanks for the information.

I can't find much of anything about this on the Internet so I really appreciate all the responses
I received.

Thank you very much,

Judy Devine

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