Many people, even those without a religious background, are familiar with Roman Catholic rosaries. Because of their long history and common use, these are often depicted in art and film, which makes them easily recognizable.
Anglican rosaries, on the other hand, are a relatively new option that was developed in the mid-1980s with the goal of making the use of prayer beads more comfortable for non-Catholic Christians, so they haven’t developed the same widespread recognition. They were originally developed by an Episcopalian, which is how they came to be known as Anglican prayer beads, but their use has spread to other protestants and are sometimes known as Protestant prayer beads to reflect that.
So what is the difference?
Roman Catholic rosaries
Before we look at what makes Anglican rosaries unique, let’s take a quick look at the Roman Catholic style rosary.
The Roman Catholic rosary has a loop made up of five “decades” of ten beads separated by larger beads. In the example shown, the decade beads are tiger eye beads and the larger beads are matte black onyx. (Smaller tiger eye beads and metal beads act as separators in this case.)
The loop starts and ends at a connector, which is often a medal of some sort. (In this case, a Miraculous Medal.) A shorter string of three decade-size beads flanked on either end by larger beads leads to the crucifix from the connector.
There are prescribed prayers that are used for these different beads when praying the Roman Catholic rosary.
The traditional style of an Anglican rosary is much smaller. It consists of four “weeks” of seven beads separated by larger beads known as cruciform beads. In the example shown, the week beads are tiger eye and the cruciform beads are matte black onyx. (Again, the smaller tiger eye and metal beads act as separators.)
The loop starts and ends at one of the cruciform beads and there is only one additional larger bead between the loop and the cross.
Whereas Roman Catholic rosaries traditionally use a crucifix as the cross, Anglican rosaries use a much wider variety of cross styles and sometimes even other religious symbols as the terminal end point. Celtic style crosses and other stylized crosses with Celtic knots, like the one shown, tend to be popular.
Anglican rosaries also differ from Roman Catholic rosaries in that there are no prescribed prayers to be used. There are a wide variety of prayers available to choose from, or you can create your own.