Born: 3rd Century, Heliopolis
Died: 3rd Century
Feast Day: 4th December
Shrine: St Vladimir Cathedral, Kiev
Patron Saint: Ferrara Mantua, Architects, Builders, Gunners, Miners, against lightning strikes, Fires, Firemen
Saint Barbara was said to have been born in the city of Heliopolis to a pagan father called Dioscorus, he was a wealthy man who devoted himself to his only daughter after the death of his wife. Barbara was beautiful and because of this Dioscorus built a tower to hide her away allowing only pagan teachers in to see her.
Barbara would spend hours gazing over the views from her tower and started to question where it came from. She was at this point worshipping pagan idols, which she came to realise were soulless and could not have made the beautiful world around her. She desired to know the real God so strongly that she vowed to spend the rest of her life doing so, remaining a virgin.
Barbara’s beauty was known far and wide and many came to her father to ask for her hand in marriage. Despite her father’s wishes she said no to all and told her father that his persistence might end tragically. He decided that she needed company outside the tower and granted her freedom. This gave Barbara the opportunity to go and meet with Christians where she learnt about God and believed. A priest who had arrived in Heliopolis dressed as a trader, taught Barbara further and then baptised her.
Her father was having a luxurious bathhouse built for Barbara and had organised for two windows, during his absence she persuaded the builders to put in three windows to form a trinity of light. She drew a cross with her finger on one of the walls which looked like it had been etched into the marble with a tool, later her footprints became etched into the stone steps of the bathhouse.
There are legends of many healings by the water of the bathhouse. When her father returned, he was not impressed by the redesign. Barbara then told him that she had requested the third window as she wanted the triune representing God as she had become a Christian.
Dioscorous was so angry he almost struck Barbara with his sword, but she escaped and fled and hid in a cave which opened to her. Finally, given away by some shepherds who had seen Barbara hiding, her father beat her severely and tried to starve her until she would renounce God. When this failed, he handed her over to the prefect of the city. There she was beaten and tortured but refused to worship pagan idols. Barbara prayed fervently over night and Jesus appeared to her and healed her wounds. When she was dragged through the city naked an angel covered her with a splendid robe.
She was finally beheaded, by her father who was then struck by lightening and killed, the same fate befell the prefect of the city. She was buried nearby, and it is alleged that many were healed at her burial place. In the 6th century her relics were taken to Constantinople and moved to Kiev 600 years later and are now at Kiev’s St Vladimir Cathedral.
References: Saints, Robbie Blake, HarperCollins
The Bible and the Saints, G. Duchet-Suchaux, M.Pastoureau Flammarion