Thursday, March 20, 2014


Dorothy of Caesarea
Feast day: February 6

 (also known as Dora, Dorothea)

According to her apochryphal tradition, she was a resident of Caesarea, Cappadocia, who when she refused to sacrifice to the gods during Emperor Diocletian's persecution of the Christians, was tortured by the governor and ordered executed. On the way to the place of execution, she met a young lawyer, Theophilus, who mockingly asked her to send him fruits from "the garden" she had joyously announced she would soon be in. When she knelt for her execution, she prayed, and an angel with a basket of three roses and three apples, which she sent to Theophilus, telling him she would meet him in the garden. Theophilus was converted to Christianity and later was martyred. Her feast day is February 6th.

 Born in Caesarea, Cappadocia (now Armenia); died there, c. 311. The story of Saint Dorothy as it has come to us is legendary. When the young maiden, Dorothy, was imprisoned as a Christian during the persecutions of Diocletian, she converted two apostate women warders sent to seduce her. This enraged Fabricius, the governor of Caesarea, who sentenced her to death.

 On the way to execution, Dorothy was cruelly baited by a lawyer named Theophilus for refusing to marry or to worship idols. He mockingly asked her to send him back some fruit and flowers from the garden she had joyously announced she would soon be in. As she knelt for her beheading and prayed, a child (or an angel) miraculously appeared with a basket of golden apples and roses. She took a napkin and placed in it three roses and three apples. Then she begged a child to take them to Theophilus and tell him she would meet him in the garden. When he saw these gifts he himself was converted to Christianity and later he, too, suffered martyrdom. Before being killed, Dorothy was stretched on a rack. It is recorded that she was then still smiling, as she remembered the warders she had converted.

 Although the early martyrologies, such as that of Saint Jerome place her death in Cappadocia during the persecution of Diocletian, Saint Dorothy's name is unknown in Eastern calendars. There was another holy virgin, whom Rufinus calls Dorothy, a rich and noble lady of the city of Alexandria, who suffered torments and a voluntary banishment, to preserve her faith and chastity against the brutish lust and tyranny of the emperor Maximinus, in the year 308, as is recorded by Eusebius and Rufinus; but many believe this latter, whose name is not mentioned by Eusebius, to be the famous Saint Catharine of Alexandria.

 The center of her cultus was Italy and Germany; although she is also represented in 15th-century stained glass and screen paintings in England. Her legend was known by Saint Aldhelm (died 709) and later formed the basis for the play The Virgin Martyr (1622) by John Massinger and Thomas Dekker, as well as poems by Swithburne and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Dorothy's relics are believed to lie at her church in Rome (Attwater, Benedictines, Bentley, Delaney, Encyclopedia, Farmer, Husenbeth).

 In art, Saint Dorothy is a maiden carrying a basket of fruit and flowers, especially roses, which are her special attribute. At times that angel attendant may carry the basket (Tabor). Sometimes she may be shown
(1) leading the Christ-child by the hand.
(2) with a basket of fruit and the Christ-child riding a hobby horse.
(3) in an orchard with the Christ-child in an apple tree.
 (4) crowned with flowers and surrounded by stars as she kneels before the executioner.
(5) crowned, carrying a flower basket.
(6) crowned with palm and flower basket, surrounded by stars.
 (7) veiled, holding apples from heaven on a branch.
(8) veiled with flowers in her lap. She is often confused with Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, who usually has the poor near her. On certain English roodscreens Saint Cecelia seems to have the attributes of Dorothy .

 Saint Dorothy is the patroness of brewers, brides, florists, gardeners, midwives, and newly-wedded couples