Old Believer Traditional Lestovka (Leather Prayer Rope; 109 steps)

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This lestovka a total of 109 "steps" (small leather loops) unevenly grouped: 3/12/38/33/17/3 steps.

Made of handcrafted leather, the Lestovka or "Ladder" is a type of prayer rope used in Russia before the arrival of the Greek knotted prayer rope in the 18th century. It is still used today by pious Orthodox Christians.

The ladder outwardly resembles a flexible staircase and symbolizes in the ancient Slavic Christian tradition the ladder of spiritual ascent from the earth to Heaven.


The Lestovka has four lapostki (leaves or flaps), symbolizing the four Evangelists. The stitching around the leaves symbolizes the teaching of the Gospel. Sealed between the leaves are seven movable pieces, as tokens of the seven Great Mysteries of the Church. Where the Lestovka is joined together there are three steps at each end, and on the Lestovka itself are three more steps, for a total of nine, which stands for the nine orders of angels, and for the nine months during which the most pure Mother of God carried in her womb the Infant Who is before all ages.

The empty space after the juncture represents the earth. Then there are twelve counters (babochki, rungs, steps, beads or loops), signafying the twelve Apostles who walked on the earth with the Lord. Then there are thirty-nine counters for the thirty-nine weeks and two days in which the Theotokos carried Christ in her womb. The next thirty-three counters represent the thirty-three years the Lord walked the earth. And the seventeen counters symbolize the seventeen prophets who prophesied concerning Christ.


Like other Prayer Ropes, any repeated prayer can be said, however the one used most often is the Jesus Prayer.

Practically speaking, this lestovka can be used for the "Lord Have Mercy" parts of the Divine Office in its 12 and 40 steps. During Great Lent the 12 steps can be used to count the prostrations during the Prayer of Saint Ephrem. 

The traditional (but not required) way to pray the Lestovka:

First three and Last three steps:
Alleluia Alleluia glory to thee o God x3 (prostration)

The empty space after the first three and last three steps:
Lord have mercy (bow)

The steps:
Lord Jesus Christ son of God have mercy on me a sinner

1st through 3rd big steps:
Remember me; O Lord; when thou comest into thy kingdom (prostration)

At the end of the Lestovka after all other prayers have been said:

God be merciful to me a sinner (bow)

Thou hast created me, O Lord have mercy on me (bow)

Information on how to use the Lestovka can be found in the following article:
Edinovertsi’s Treasure: The Rule of Home Prayer / OrthoChristian.Com

The following video from Fr. Deacon Phillip (ROCOR Old Ritualist Church in Erie) explains the Lestovka further:
(187) Old Believer Lestovka explained - YouTube

The following video shows a lestovka being made at Valaam Monastery:
(187) Учимся делать лестовку (русские четки) вместе | Валаамский монастырь - YouTube