Centre for Medieval Studies Lecture Series

Dorottya Uhrin

The Spread of Saint Dorothy’s Cult in Central Europe and Scandinavia

A Comparative Analysis

Thursday, March 31, 2022, at 16.30
Lögberg 101

Dorottya Uhrin

Saint Dorothy was a young virgin, who during the reign of Emperor Diocletian suffered martyrdom in Cappadocia in the late Antiquity. Her cult was highly popular in the fifteenth-century Central Europe and Scandinavia. She was, however,  almost unknown a hundred years earlier. This phenomenon is not unique and not limited only to this particular saint and territory. The fourteenth century seems to be the period when the cults and legends of virgin martyrs were rediscovered in Europe. How did their cult re-emerge in these regions? Why did a late-Antique saint become popular in the late Middle Ages? How did her cult spread from Central Europe to North an East?

In my presentation, I will concentrate on how the general changes in society contributed to the birth of a special type of saints, the holy helper, and why did their cults become popular in the above-mentioned regions. By the fourteenth century, the network of parish churches has already been developed, thus the devotees had to find other ways to express their veneration. Thus, her cult’s traces mostly appear as altar dedications, mural paintings and legends. Beside the medieval vernacular German translation of the legends, there are Hungarian and Icelandic translation of her holy life. Thus, the presentation analyzes which circumstances contributed to the proliferation of the cult of virgin martyrs, especially to Saint Dorothy’s cult with interdisciplinary method. Historical, art historical and liturgical sources will help to reconstruct the birth and the spread of the cult.

I will argue, that besides the growing importance of women, the general changes in the cult of saints facilitated the spread of the cult of virgin martyrs. The growing importance of images and sermons contributed to the spread of the old saints’ cult, whose venerations were not connected to certain locations. Moreover, their intimate relationship with the Virgin Mary made them effective intercessors which also subsidized to their popularity.

Dorottya Uhrin is an assistant lecturer at the Medieval History Department of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She graduated in history, religious history and Mongolian studies and earned a Ph.D. from the same university. Also, she has a master’s degree in medieval studies from Central European University. Her main research area is religiosity in medieval Central Europe.

The talk will be delivered in English. All are welcome to attend