|Saint Dorothy, Virgin and
Martyr - Died ca. 300
St. Dorothy's legend was already formed by at least the 8th century, when it was summarized by St. Aldhelm, but her cult was not widespread until the 15th.1
In the legend Dorothy lived in Caesarea in Cappadocia. When she was on the way to her martyrdom a jesting "scribe of the realm" named Theophilus asked her to bring him roses and apples from the "Paradise" she claimed she was going to. Then as she proceeded to the execution a mysterious child appeared before her bearing a basket of three roses and three apples. She asked him to take the basket to Theophilus.
Then she was martyred, at a date variously reported as 280 (Caxton), 288 (Bokenham 99) or 303 (Butler 261). The following year in the dead of winter, the child brought the apples and roses to Theophilus, and he converted to Christianity as a result.
For this reason, St. Dorothy's attribute is a basket of roses and apples. Sometimes, as at left, the basket is replaced by her own garment and the apples are omitted. Instead of the basket, or sometimes in addition to it, she may be holding a stalk of three or five roses.
Portraits also sometimes show her with the mysterious child (example). One image gives the child the crossed halo that is specific to Christ. This most likely responds to Dorothy's words to the child in the Acta Sanctorum, "Tell him, 'here is what you asked my spouse to send you from Paradise'" (774).
Feast day: February 6
At left, from Lorenzetti's Madonna and Child with Mary Magdalene and St. Dorothy
14th-century fresco of the basket miracleHagiography:
The editors of Dorothy's pages in the Acta Sanctorum (February vol. 1, 771-76) refer to Dorothy's Acta in the Golden Legend, but there is nothing about her in Graesse's text of that work, nor in Ryan's translation. Caxton's translation (html or pdf) does have a life of Dorothy, as does Bokenham's Middle English Legends of Holy Women (95-99).