Saint Barbara

Patron Saint of Artillery, Military Engineers, Armourers, Miners and Tunnellers, Fire-fighters as well as mathematicians and geologists.

Barbara was the beautiful daughter of a pagan named Dioscorus. She lived in the 3rd century when Christianity was on the rise and becoming a problem for the Roman Empire. Barbara spent most of her life confined in a tower, but as to the reason for her seclusion there are differing accounts, some saying it was punishment for her conversion to Christianity while others imply it was because of her beauty and the desire of her father to keep her from the outside world.

Barbara would appear to have been well educated with many accounts of her story referring to private tutoring whilst in her tower. Her solitude provided time to ponder the world and she gave herself to prayer and study, and having become aware of Christianity contrived to receive instruction and Baptism in secret by a Christian priest posing as a physician.

Barbara kept her Christianity secret from her father until he was away on business when she had three windows built into a bathhouse being constructed on the property; the idea was to honour the Holy Trinity. When her father returned, she confessed her Christianity. Dioscorus who was a fierce hater of Christians was enraged by his daughter’s actions disowned her and had her dragged before the prefect of the province, Martinianus. Barbara was cruelly tortured in an attempt to have her denounce her Christianity but she held true to her faith. She was stripped and struck with whips and clubs until she stood in a pool of her own blood, yet she would not deny Christ. Each night the prison would be bathed in light and every morning Barbara’s wounds were healed. Finally, she was condemned to death by beheading. Her father himself carried out the death-sentence.

It is unclear when the next event occurred but shortly after the beheading, Dioscorus was struck by lightning and his body consumed by fire. Some accounts also mention the same fate for the prefect Martinianus.

Another Christian named Juliana, reportedly Barbara’s hand maiden and friend, who loudly objected to Barbara’s death sentence was also executed along with Barbara. Both bodies were buried by a pious man named Valentinus and the gravesite became a place where the sick would be healed and pilgrims who came to pray received aid and consolation.

Saint Barbara is often portrayed with a three windowed tower as a representation of her imprisonment, she carries the palm of a martyr and will sometimes be holding a chalice and sacramental wafer; at times cannon are displayed near her.

Her association with things military and with death that falls from the sky led to her patronage of all things related to artillery, and her image graced powder magazines and arsenals for years.

Barbara continues to be a popular saint in modern times, perhaps best known as the patron saint of armourers, artillerymen, military engineers, miners and others who work with explosives because of her old legend’s association with lightning.

In the 12th century, the relics of Saint Barbara were brought from Constantinople to the St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev, where they were kept until the 1930s, when they were transferred to St. Vladimir’s Cathedral in the same city.

St. Barbara’s remains were brought to New York from Italy to mark the seventh anniversary of the Sept. 11

Authors Note

When I started researching this article I had no idea of the variations of the story. Time, myth and a number of Christian church accounts have obscured the facts over the centuries and it is difficult to determine the most correct version. What I have attempted here is to compile the most collaborated facts to produce what I hope to be a reasonably accurate description.

There is conflicting information on where and when these events occurred. As for the location, Northern Italy, Armenia, Turkey, Egypt and Syria are quoted in various versions and the possible years span the 3rd and 4th centuries. It is generally accepted that her feast day for Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Anglicans is December 4.


James Duvalier – Author, Spiritual Counsellor and Paranormal Researcher:

Catholic Online – St Barbara:

Cairo Churches – Church of St Barbara:

Wikipedia – Saint Barbara:

Saint Barbara Russian Orthodox Church:

Catholic Saints Info: