Dorothea von Montau, St.
DOROTHEA VON MONTAU, ST.
Also called Dorothea of Prussia; first native saint of Prussia and Patroness of Prussia; b. village of Montau, 1347; d. 1394. Dorothea was the seventh child of a prosperous peasant household. When Dorothea was seven, she was scalded with hot water over most of her body, and while being nursed back to health, she experienced her first mystic vision of Christ, an experience that continued through her lifetime. Upon her recovery, Dorothea began a regimen of harsh mortifications of the flesh. She was compelled at age 17 to marry a weaponsmith from Gdansk, who was more than twice her age. Dorothea suffered physical, verbal, and emotional abuse at her husband's hands. She chafed at the need to comply with his wishes fearing that it would impede her relationship with God. She was said to have mourned the loss of her virginity and hated the birth of each of her children. Finally, after the birth of her ninth child, Dorothea was able to persuade her husband to agree to a life of marital chastity. Her husband died in 1390.
In 1391, Dorothea was accused of being a part of the Free Spirit movement. Her irregular behavior at Mass attracted attention because she was taken up in ecstasy in anticipation of receiving the Eucharist, and she often failed to stand during the elevation of the host. Although the charge of heresy was dropped, it became obvious that she needed a confessor to guide and counsel her. With the help of Johannes Marienwerder, she secured permission to build and dwell in an anchoress' cell.
After Dorothea's death in 1394, Johannes took it upon himself to spread her cult, and wrote an account of her life and visions. Numerous miracles were attributed to her, and her tomb became a local pilgrimage site. Dorothea was never officially canonized, but in 1976, Pope Paul VI confirmed her cult as saint based on longstanding veneration. In art, Dorothea is usually depicted holding a lantern and a rosary, and is often surrounded by arrows, meant to represent the many afflictions she suffered and overcame during her life.
Bibliography: j. von marienwerder, The Life of Dorothea von Montau, A Fourteenth-Century Recluse, Trans. by u. star-gardt (Studies in Women and Religion 39; Lewiston, NY 1997). r. kieckhefer, Unquiet Souls: Fourteenth-Century Saints and their Religious Milieu (Chicago 1984). d. elliott, Authorizing a Life: The Collaboration of Dorothea of Montau and John Marienwerder, in Gendered Voices: Medieval Saints and Their Interpreters, ed. c. m. mooney (Philadelphia 1999).