During the middle ages the devotion to Mary was deep and sincere in Scandinavia. Each prayer in the rosary was imagined to transform into a rose which was given by the heart to the blessed virgin mother.


I have previously written some entries on this blog about Swedish medieval church paintings picturing the mysteries.

The Rosary have appeared in different versions and with different length through the ages. Already in the eleventh century it was common to pray long sets of Ave Maria. Only the first half was prayed:

Ave María, grátia plena,
Dóminus tecum.
Benedícta tu in muliéribus,
et benedíctus fructus ventris tui,

Somewhere around the twelfth or thirteenth century it became common to pray the rosary in 150 decades, one for each psalm in the Psalter, (hence the name Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary). In some monasteries, the munk’s contemplated certain events in Mary’s life.

About 1410 St Dominic, Founder of the Order of Preachers, constructed a version with 50 secrets from the life of Jesus and Mary. In many ways we have the Dominicans to thank for spreading the practice of this prayer. For instance it was the Dominican Alain de la Roche who grouped 50 decades into three series.

In 1545 the second half of the prayer Ave Maria were added by the council of Trent:

Sancta María, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatóribus,
nunc et in hora mortis nostræ.

In 1569 Pope Pius V issued an apostolic letter the Consueverunt Romani – Call to Prayer – where he established the official, Church-authorized version of the Rosary which are still used today:

and so Dominic looked to that simple way of praying and beseeching God, accessible to all and wholly pious, which is called the Rosary, or Psalter of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in which the same most Blessed Virgin is venerated by the angelic greeting repeated one hundred and fifty times, that is, according to the number of the Davidic Psalter, and by the Lord’s Prayer with each decade. Interposed with these prayers are certain meditations showing forth the entire life of Our Lord Jesus Christ, thus completing the method of prayer devised by the Fathers of the Holy Roman Church.
(Consueverunt Romani by Pius V – 17 September, 1569)

Today the Rosary are prayed in different versions. The Fatima apparition added a part which is commonly used by devote Catholics of today.

When you pray the Rosary, say after each mystery: ‘O Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.’ “ (From the Fatima message, 1917)


As I have wrote about earlier John Paul II added the Luminious mysterious in the Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae in 2002. and here’s an instruction on how to pray the rosary from the Vatican: The mysteries of the Rosary



I got the most of the facts from an article by the Swedish expert Florence Vilén. The article was published in a book called “En bok om Rosenkransen och dess mysterier” from Jungfru Maria Skriftserie by Vettertryck AB.


This is the fourth entry on medieval church paintings picturing scenes from the mysteries of the Rosary.

The early sixteen century pictures from Dannemora church below, pictures the three-fold mystery painted around The blessed mother of the rosary:



Our blessed mother is surrounded by three wreaths. In each wreath are five medallions and five decades of roses. Below are the five medallions, the five secrets of the joyful mysteries enlarged. At this Swedish site you can see more medallions from the great Rosary painting at Dannemora Church.

The Annunciation

Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found grace with God.
(Luke 1:30)




The Visitation

For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
(Luke 1:48)




The Birth

For, this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.
(Luke 2:11)




The Presentation

Behold this child is set for the fall, and for the resurrection.
(Luke 2:34)




The Finding

How is it that you sought me? did you not know, that I must be about my father’s business?
(Luke 2:49 )



This is the third entry on medieval church paintings picturing scenes which can be used when praying the Rosary.

The Luminous Mysteries, the mystery of light, was added by his Holiness John Paul the second. He used parts of the gospel that is a divine fulfillment of the traditional rosary that further deepens our understanding of the gospel and our daily life of praying the rosary.

I believe, however, that to bring out fully the Christological depth of the Rosary it would be suitable to make an addition to the traditional pattern which, while left to the freedom of individuals and communities, could broaden it to include the mysteries of Christ’s public ministry between his Baptism and his Passion. In the course of those mysteries we contemplate important aspects of the person of Christ as the definitive revelation of God. Declared the beloved Son of the Father at the Baptism in the Jordan, Christ is the one who announces the coming of the Kingdom, bears witness to it in his works and proclaims its demands. It is during the years of his public ministry that the mystery of Christ is most evidently a mystery of light: “While I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5).
(John Paul II in the Apostolic letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae in 2002)

The added parts where all common spiritual images of the Middle Ages in Scandinavia.




The Baptism

This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
(Matthew 3:17)




The Wedding

Whatsoever he shall say to you, do ye.
(John 2:5)




The Proclamation

The time is accomplished, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent, and believe the gospel.
(Mark 1:15)




The Transfiguration

The shape of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and glittering.
(Luke 9:29)




The Eucharist

This is my body, which is given for you.
(Luke 22:19 )

Here is the second entry on medieval church paintings. The pictures are from different churches from Uppland and Västmanland in central Sweden. They are painted by Albertus Pictor (2, 4 & 5) in the late fifteenth century and some are from Dannemora kyrka (1 & 3), from about the same time.

The Ascension is usually pictured as a pair of feet disappearing in a cloud or out of the picture.




The Glorious Resurrection of Our Lord

I ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and your God.
(John 20:17)




The Ascension of Our Lord

He departed from them, and was carried up to heaven.
(Luke 24:51)




The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

And I send the promise of my father upon you.
(Luke 24:49)




The Assumption of Mary into Heaven

Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, terrible as an army set in array?
(Canticles 6:9)




The Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth

A woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.
(Apocalypse 12:1)

In the middle ages, in Scandinavia, there was a very strong devotion towards Mary. Many of the medieval church paintings depict scenes from the Rosary (as well as , of course, other scenes from the bible.

Here are five images that can be used when praying the sorrowful mysteries.

The first is a painting from the now burned down wooden church in Södra Råda in Sweden. (1490).
The second picture from Ösmo Kyrka in Sweden and is made by Albertus Pictor (1440-1507).
The third image is from Vrå Kirke in Denmark (1510).
The fourth is from Dannemora kyrka in Sweden (1520).
The fifth image is from Vitaby kyrka in Sweden (1300).




The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden

The Agony of Our Lord in the Garden

My Father, if this chalice may not pass away, but I must drink it, thy will be done.
(Matthew 26:42)




Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar

Our Lord is Scourged at the Pillar

Then therefore, Pilate took Jesus, and scourged him.
(John 19:1)




Our Lord is Crowned with Thorns

Our Lord is Crowned with Thorns

And platting a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand.
(Matthew 27:29)




Our Lord Carries the Cross to Calvary

Our Lord Carries the Cross to Calvary

And bearing his own cross, he went forth to that place which is called Calvary.
(John 19:17)




The Crucifixion of Our Lord

The Crucifixion of Our Lord

And Jesus again crying with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.
(Mathew 27:50)