Dominican tradition holds that the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Dominic and gave him the Rosary. Numerous scenes in our Motherhouse depicting Our Lady remind us of our special love for and devotion to the Rosary. A stained glass window of Our Lady with the Child Jesus handing down a Rosary to a kneeling St. Dominic has adorned our oratory since 1889. A smaller window in the exonarthex of the chapel shows the same scene. This window is complemented by four rectangular windows on the opposite wall, each divided vertically to depict one of the sets of mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful and Glorious.
Devotion to the Rosary is especially associated with the Order of Preachers. Three great Dominicans helped to spread devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary. Several centuries after St. Dominic, a Dominican friar from Brittany became one of history’s greatest promoters of the Rosary. His zeal both for his Order and for the Blessed Virgin Mary was so great that Alan de la Roche (1428-1475, also called Alan de Rupe)was convinced that the Rosary was undoubtedly Dominican in origin. De la Roche wrote in Trésor des livres rates et précieux that saying 150 Hail Marys in place of the 150 Psalms of the Divine Office originated with St. Dominic. He preached on the Rosary and popularized its use widely and successfully. Another devotional success was de la Roche’s idea of Rosary Confraternities, the first of which he established at Douai, from where the devotion spread widely. At de la Roche’s urging, the Rosary became a special “apostolate” of the Dominican Order, which has continued to preach its spiritual benefits to this day.
Another promoter of the Rosary was Pope St. Pius V (1566-1572), a Dominican Pontiff, who ordered all Christendom to pray the Rosary to save Europe from the Ottoman Turks in 1571. The victory that turned back the Turks in the Battle of Lepanto was attributed to the praying of the Rosary, and Pope Pius instituted a feast in Our Lady’s honor.
A third promoter of the Rosary was St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1716), a diocesan priest and Third Order Dominican whose great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary inspired him to organize and spread devotion to the Rosary. He preached thousands of missions on the Rosary and also wrote books on the Blessed Mother and the Rosary, including The Secret of Mary and The Secret of the Rosary.
The Church has always attributed particular efficacy to this prayer, entrusting to the Rosary, to its choral recitation and to its constant practice, the most difficult problems. At times when Christianity itself seemed under threat, its deliverance was attributed to the power of this prayer, and Our Lady of the Rosary was acclaimed as the one whose intercession brought salvation. (Rosarium Virginis Mariae, 39)