Dorothea of Caesarea
Found in: Turkish Roman Catholic saints
Saint Dorothea (d. ca. 311) is venerated as a 4th century virgin martyr who was executed at Caesarea Mazaca. Very sparse documentary evidence for her acta exists. She is called a martyr of the Roman emperor Diocletian's persecutions, although her death occurred after his reign. She should not be confused with another 4th century saint, Dorothea of Alexandria.
She and Theophilus are mentioned in the Roman Martyrology as martyrs of Caesarea in Cappadocia, with a feast day on 6 February. She is thus officially recognized as a saint, but because there is scarcely any non-legendary knowledge about her, she is no longer, since 1969, included in the General Roman Calendar.
According to the hagiographer Alban Butler, for example, Dorothea's parents were martyred before her by Diocletian, and a Roman governor, Sapiricius (or Apricius), called her to an audience and demanded that she take a husband. When she refused, he had her put upon the rack and given a choice of a husband, if she would sacrifice to the gods, or death, if she refused. She claimed that she had a husband in Jesus Christ and desired death. Sapiricius then put her in a cell with two women who had abandoned Christianity, hoping that they would convince her, but, instead, she brought them back to religious faith. When she was again put on the rack, she smiled and said that she was truly blessed, for she had saved two lost souls and would be assured of paradise. She was sentenced to death, after further tribulation.
Her martyrdom occurred in February, and as she was being led to her beheading, a man named Theophilus mocked her, asking her to send him apples or roses from her husband's garden. Upon her binding for decapitation, Dorothea saw a young girl with a basket of roses and apples and asked her to take them to Theophilus as a gift. The child was an angel, and when Theophilus saw her bringing him roses and apples after Dorothea's martyrdom, he converted to Christianity and was later martyred himself. His feast day occurs on the same day as Dorothea's.
The earliest record that mentions Dorothea is found in the Martyrologium Hieronymianum. This first record contains only three basic facts: the day of martyrdom, the place where it occurred, and her name and that of Theophilus.Joseph Martin Peterson, The Dorothea Legend: Its Earliest Records, Middle English Versions, and Influence of Massingers "Virgin Martyr" , 13.
Dorothea's cult became widespread in Europe during the Middle Ages. She was venerated in Europe from the seventh century. In late medieval Sweden she was considered as the 15th member of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, and in art she occurred with Saint Barbara, Catherine of Alexandria and Margaret of Antioch, forming with them a quartet of female saints called Huvudjungfrur meaning "The Main Virgins."
Dorothea of Caesarea's life and martyrdom was the basis of Philip Massinger and Thomas Dekker's The Virgin Martyr (printed 1622).
The Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Dorothy is a convent of active nuns, occupied primarily with teaching and the cultivation of flowers and produce. The order is named for Dorothea of Caesarea. Their most famous member is Lucia dos Santos, the oldest of the three Fatima visionaries.
Sainte-Dorothee, Quebec, a borough in Laval, Quebec, Canada
Butler, Alban. The Lives of the Saints. Rockford, Illinois: Tan Books and Publishers, 1995. (Originally published 1878.) Nihil obstat and Imprimatur 1955.
Englebert, Omer. The Lives of the Saints. Christopher and Anne Fremantle, trans. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1994. Nihil obstat and Imprimatur 1951.
Harvey, Sir Paul, ed. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Peterson, Joseph Martin, The Dorothea Legend: Its Earliest Records, Middle English Versions, and Influence of Massingers "Virgin Martyr" .
The Swedish Nationalecyklopedin Volume 5 p.102
Medeltidens ABC edited by The Swedish national museum of history p. 93, 276.