St. Dorothea and the Swordmaker’s Wife

Today is the old feast of St. Dorothea, one of the most popular of the early virgin martyrs. She died after promising to prove Heaven’s existence to a skeptical friend. And the story says that she sent fruit and flowers from Heaven to him, along with a heavenly odor of roses.

The Little Flower, St. Therese, and many another saint, have been inspired to try to follow her example, and plenty of people know they have done so after death. But she was the first. Respect St. Dorothea’s seniority!

Today is another old feast that’s far more forgotten — the feast of St. Dorothy of Montau (Dorothea von Montau). At seventeen, she married a swordsmith named Albrecht of Danzig (today’s Gdansk). Initially he was frightened by her visions and devotional life, and tried to have her exorcised. He may also have beaten her. But her love healed his hot temper and made him pious, and over the next twenty-odd years, the middle class couple went on many pilgrimages together. Alas, he died, and so did all but one of their nine children. After their surviving daughter joined the Benedictines, St. Dorothy became a hermit near the cathedral in Marienwerder, where the Teutonic Order hung out. As she lived her austere life of prayer and penance, many people sought her advice. Her confessor wrote her biography in seven volumes, the Septi-Lilium.

After her death, she was locally venerated as not only a saint, but the patron saint of the Teutonic Knights and of Prussia. She was beatified, but various stuff got in the way of her canonization (Teutonic Knights not being popular; Teutonic Knights sponsoring her cause and then dropping it when they found out she had criticized some Teutonic Knights for living too lavishly). So they did not finally have the local devotionto her confirmed by canonization until 1976.

With all the shimsham about how medieval women never got biographies, there sure seem to be a lot of medieval women saints with extensive contemporary or immediately post-mortem ones. Not just nuns, either, but family women.

A page about her in German.

Gunter Grass wrote a novel from her husband’s point of view, Der Butt (The Flounder), which apparently has popularized the view that she was abused and that her husband never improved. I would think her contemporary biography would have more authority.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One response to “St. Dorothea and the Swordmaker’s Wife

  1. With all the shimsham about how medieval women never got biographies, there sure seem to be a lot of medieval women saints with extensive contemporary or immediately post-mortem ones. Not just nuns, either, but family women.

    One of the guys from Monty Python– of all places– did a series of history entertainment shows; they were so busy kicking the modern sacred cows that they forgot to kick the Church. ^.^ (The one on ancient Rome was horribly uninformative, though– every other phrase was “income inequality.”)

    Who knew that women had personalities and liked romance novels, even back then !?!?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s