The Life of Saint Barbara the Great Martyr
The History of our Church is full of examples of individuals
who dedicated their lives to God. Their stories are different
and vary, yet the one thread that links them all is their Love
for God. They endured whipping, stoning and other forms of torture
because of their belief. Some, where even fed to lions and beheaded,
yet, even when faced with this enormous pressure to deny Christ
they stood firm and fearless even to death.
One such heroine, named Barbara, lived in the city of Heliopolis
in the beginning of the third century. She was a lovely and intelligent
girl and the daughter of Dioscorus, who was a wealthy nobleman and
a pagan. In his zeal to protect his young daughter, Dioscorus built
a magnificent tower for her to live in and to keep her safe. He
spared no expense, providing her with every material luxury, the
best food, clothing, servants and teachers, but forbade her to have
friends and even speak to anyone without his permission. Barbara
was a bright and intelligent girl who was obedient to her father's
wishes and remained in the tower, without complaint, even during
his frequent business trips. Dioscorus's intentions were simple
- he wanted to surround his daughter with the greatest comforts;
he surrounded her with attendents, who he would have instruct her
on how to worship the pagan gods. he felt that by keeping her secluded
from the world, she was sure to grow up and be a pagan worshipper.
One day, before leaving on one of his many business trip, Dioscorus
decided to build a bathhouse for Barbara next to her tower. He drew
up plans and left strict instructions for the builders to follow.
Dioscorus’ business however, kept him away for an unusually
long time, so that the workers were over half finished with the
bathhouse and he had still not returned home. It was around this
time that Barbara came down from her tower to inspect the new structure.
She noticed that it only had two windows, and thought to herself
that the pool would have more light if there were three windows
in the bathhouse and she instructed the workers to create a third
window. Remembering Dioscorus’s stern instructions, the workers
were afraid to deviate from the plans, but Barbara assured them
that she would assume full responsibility for the change. The workers,
aware of the love that Dioscorus had for his only daughter, agreed
and placed a third window in the bathhouse.
One day, when the construction was nearly completed, Barbara stood
by the pool facing the east she said, “In the name of the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,” and she miraculously
drew the sign of the cross in the marble wall of the bathhouse with
her finger. She then returned to her tower where she spent her time
fasting and praying.
When Dioscorus finally arrived home he immediately noticed the
additional (third) window in the bathhouse and became very angry.
He entered the bathhouse, to inspect it further, and then noticed
the large cross, carved on the marble wall. He became furious. He
quickly went to the workers and demanded to know who gave them permission
to make changes to the bathhouse. The workers, cowering in the face
of such anger, replied that Barbara instructed them to add the third
window and then drew the cross on the marble wall with her finger.
Dioscorus immediately sought out his daughter and demanded to know
why she had deviated from his strict instructions. In a furious
rage he cursed her for disobeying him and insisted on knowing the
meaning behind the additional window. Barbara responded in a very
loving way to her father that indeed the three windows represented
the three Lights which guide everyone who comes into the world.
Barbara then proceeded to explain and confess her faith in the Holy
Upon hearing Barbara’s confession of faith, Dioscorus became
furious! His plan of keeping his daughter in darkness had failed!
Even though she had no 'human' teacher to bring her to the knowledge
of God's existence, Barbara's mind, heart and soul were opened by
the grace of God to feel His presence. Secretly, she was able to
meet with some Christians who told her about Christ and His teachings.
Convinced of the Truth concerning Jesus, she became a Christian
whose love for God inspired all who heard of her.
Blinded by his fury, Dioscorus delivered Barbara to Marcian, the
Roman prefect, to torture her until she denied Christ. Young Barbara
was stripped and struck with whips and clubs until she was standing
in a pool of her own blood. To increase the pain, the soldiers rubbed
vinegar into her wounds. Through all this, Barbara stood firm in
her faith and would not deny Christ.
She was then thrown into prison and ordered to return the following
day. While in her cell, Barbara knelt in prayer to ask God to continue
to grant her the strength that she needed to remain faithful, and
as she prayed her heart was filled with heavenly joy and her wounds
were completely healed. In a nearby cell, was another pious young
lady named Juliana, who because of her own faith in Christ, was
also imprisoned. Upon witnessing the miraculous healing of Barbara,
Juliana praised God and promised to endure what ever terrible tortures
that were facing her because of her faith.
The next day, Barbara was brought in front of Marcian. He was amazed
to see that her wounds had healed and demanded her to deny Christ.
Her refusal angered the prefect, who ordered her body to be hung
on a stake and ripped with iron claws. The soldiers then burned
her wounds with hot irons and beat her head with spiked clubs. Yet
through it all, Barbara found consolation in prayer.
Juliana witnessed Barbara’s tortures and wept bitterly over
her inability to assist her. When Marcian saw this, he ordered that
Juliana be brought forward and tortured in an effort to have her
renounce her faith in Christ. Juliana refused and the horrible beatings
resumed and continued for several hours while the young ladies stood
praying and chanting hymns. Their refusal to renounce their faith
only further frustrated Marcian and he ordered that the two girls
be taken out of the city and killed!
When Dioscorus, who was watching the his daughter’s torture,
heard Marcian pronounce the sentence, he offered to execute Saint
Barbara himself with his own sword. Saint Barbara and Saint Juliana
were then led out of the city to a mountainside were they were beheaded
– Saint Barbara, by her father and Saint Juliana by an executioner.
As the two men hurried down the mountainside, a great bolt of lightning
came from heaven striking Dioscorus and killing him, another bolt
killed Juliana’s executioner. When the cowardly Marcian heard
of these events, he became so paralyzed by fear that he died of
Saint Barbara gained her crown of martyrdom on December 4, 306
and joined her true Father in Heaven. Through her intercessions,
O Lord, Have Mercy on Us.
Apolytikion in the Fourth Tone
Let us praise the most honorable Barbara. She thwarted the enemy's power, and through the might and strength of the Cross, she was made free in her flight to God.