IS A PATERNOSTER - STRINGING MATERIALS - BEAD MATERIALS - THE
PATER NOSTER - THE AVE MARIA
were popular before, during and into the late the middle ages.
From as early as 1000AD, paternosters or prayer beads have been
a common dress accessory.
What is a paternoster?
Cistercians in the 11th and 12th centuries allowed lay brothers
and sisters to recite the Pater Noster, the Our Father
instead of 150 psalms and lessons. Originally, the beads helped
with counting and were not a fashion accessory.
Shown at right is a paternoster with
wooden beads and silver gauds with a large amber bead at the bottom
and a gilt pendant terminus. It
dates from the 15th century and is of German origin. Instead of
having a large bead or marker to break the number of beads, the
gauds are each different and represent each of the instruments
of the passion of Christ.
At left is a close up of another
pendant terminus, this one gold, and of St Christopher. It is
also German and from the 15th century.
Paternosters were usually made long and in a loop for women and
short and straight for men usually in a string of 10, 50 or 150
beads either with or without dividers.
detail from painting at right is from the mid 1400s work Mother
of God With Pea Blossom from the Master of Cologne, Germany.
It shows Mary with a gold paternoster.
Paternosters and rosaries provided a unique opportunity for a
woman in particular to appear pious while at the same time taking
the opportunity to display a show of wealth in the materials and
fixing of her beads. A woman's paternoster could be a string of
knots on a cord or a string of beads.
Known stringing materials included green silk, tubular silk braid,
silver and gold wire.
The most popular bead materials were red coral, amber, bone, boxwood
Known bead materials include agate, amber, amethyst, chalcedony,
clay, coral, carnelian, crystal, diamonds, emeralds, enameled
gold, garnet, gilt, glass, gold, horn, ivory, jasper, jet, mother
of pearl, onyx, pearls, paste, rock crystal, rubies, sapphires,
shell, silver, turquoise, apricot kernels, bone and a variety
of woods- ebony, mazerwood, mistletoe, yew and boxwood.
was particularly popular, as coral was thought to ward against
the evil eye.
The Our Father beads or gauds dividing groups of ten beads
were often larger than the others on the strand.
The beads in the paternoster shown
at left are dated from 1250 and are of Anglo Norman make. They
were uncovered in the Waterford City excavations in England
and are made of amber.
Since this jewellery was for the
greater glory of God and not for personal adornment, the church
was unwilling to place a ban on the owning or wearing of excessively
rich and ornate paternosters.
Paternosters were often exempt from taxes restricting rich clothing
and ornamentation, so wearing an expensive string of beads as
a paternoster provided an opportunity for showing off wealth and
good taste, as well as one's devotion to the Almighty. Even a
woman who was not particularly pious often did not pass up such
an opportunity to display jewellery.
At right is a worn effigy from 1369.
It is one of the weepers from the tomb of Thomas Beauchamp and
his wife, Katherine Mortimer at St Mary's church at Warwick,
England. It is hard to define whether the beads were in her hand
which was originally resting on her hip or whether the beads were
attached to her belt- a common practice with paternosters.
the early mentions of prayer beads in England is the will of Lady
Godiva who died in the 11th century. When she died, she left
a circlet of gems that she had
threaded on a string, in order that by fingering them one by
one as she recited her prayers, she might not fall short of
the exact number
to a monastery which she and her
husband had founded.
The 1350 illumination detail,
shown below at right, is of Saint Hedwig of Silesia from the Hedwigs
Codex shows Saint Hedwig with a linear rosary, which is unusual
for a woman.
The string of beads is unlooped and long, rather than the usual
woman's looped form or the usual linear and short style. At the
end is a tassel, and the paternoster is shown hanging down from
what appears to be a brooch at the edge of her cloak or on her
The brooch itself is a diamond shape
decorated version of the common ring brooch which was widely used
on cloaks and outer garments throughout the medieval period.
The Pater Noster,
or Lord's Prayer
Below is the Lord's Prayer, the Pater Noster, and
the Hail Mary, Ave Maria in latin as it would have been
said during the medieval period for prayers and the old English
translation at the time of 14th century England.
It is particularly interesting to note that in the Lord's Prayer,
the supplicant prays to be forgiven for their debts and
to forgive those that debt against us, rather than their
tresspasses, which was changed as the prayer books were
Pater noster qui es in coelis
Sanctificetur nomen tuum
Adveniat regnum tuum
Fiat voluntas tua
et in terra sicut in coelo
Panem nostrum quotidianum
da nobis hodie
Et dimitte nobis debita nostra
sicut et dimittemus debitoribus nostris
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem
sed libera nos a malo
The Lord's Prayer
Fader oure that art in heven
halwed be thi name;
come thi kyngdom
fulfild by thi wil
in heven as in erthe;
oure ech-day bred
yef us to day,
and foryeve us oure dettes
as we foryeveth to our detoures;
and ne led us nought in temptacion,
bote delivere us of evel.
So be it.
The Ave Maria,
or Hail Mary.
of the Ave Maria remains one of the standard confessional sentances
to this day.
Ave Maria, gratia plena
Benedicta tu in mulieribus
Et benedictus fructus ventris tui.
Hail Marye, ful of grace
God is with the
of alle wymmen thou art most blessid
and blessid be the fruyt of thi wombe, Ihusus.
So mote it be.