Variants of the hc ligase ribozyme, which catalyzes ligation of the 3' end of an RNA substrate to the 5' end of the ribozyme, were utilized to evolve a ribozyme that catalyzes ligation reactions on an external RNA template. The evolved ribozyme catalyzes the joining of an oligonucleotide 3'-hydroxyl to the 5'-triphosphate of an RNA hairpin molecule. The ribozyme can also utilize various substrate sequences, demonstrating a largely sequence-independent mechanism for substrate recognition. The ribozyme also carries out the ligation of two oligonucleotides that are bound at adjacent positions on a complementary template. Finally, it catalyzes addition of mononucleoside 5'-triphosphates onto the 3' end of an oligonucleotide primer in a template-dependent manner. The development of ribozymes that catalyze polymerase-type reactions contributes to the notion that an RNA world could have existed during the early history of life on Earth.