St. Barbara was an early Christian Martyr. Her father so hated that she had chosen to become christian that legend tells us that he carried out her death sentance himself.
Virgin and Martyr
Saint Barbara is usually pictured with a tower and ciborium with a host above it. She was probably from Asia Minor and martyred in the 3rd or 4th century. By the 9th century however her veneration was widespread in both the Eastern and Western churches and she has remained an immensely popular saint down through the ages.
She was the daughter of a rich pagan named Dioscurus, and perhaps because of her great beauty, he carefully guarded her in a tower to preserve her from the outside world. As a result of her enforced solitude, she gave herself to prayer and study. She was tutored by philosophers, orators and poets and eventually received Christian instruction and was secretly baptised by a priest named Valentinius. She decided to consecrate her virginity to Christ and consequently rejected an offer of marriage that she received through her father.
On one occasion her father was going on a journey and left instructions for the construction of a private bath-house within her enclosure with two windows. Barbara however, during her father’s absence, had three windows put in instead, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity. On her father’s return she acknowledged herself to be a Christian. This enraged him so much that he tried to kill her. She miraculously escaped his attempts so he denounced her as a Christian to Martinianus, the prefect of the province. Martinianus repeatedly had her cruelly tortured but each time her wounds healed miraculously. Finally she was condemned to death by beheading and stories record that her own father himself carried out the death-sentence. The stories of Barbara’s martyrdom also mention that her father was subsequently struck by lightning and his body was consumed by fire. Barbara was buried by Valentinus, the priest who baptized her and her tomb became the site of miracles.
Saint Barbara is invoked against fever, lightning, fire and the danger of sudden and violent death. She is the Patron of miners, builders, artillerymen, armourers, military engineers, gunsmiths and those who work with explosives.
She is also known as one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, a group of saints who were originally invoked against the horrors of the black plague in the 14th century because they were efficacious in assisting in trials and suffering.
St Barbara’s Feast Day is 4th December