Feast Day: December 4
Saint Barbara was born in the city of Nicomedia, northern Asia Minor (modern day Izmit, Turkey), in the year 218 A.D. Born to Dioscorus, a wealthy tyrannical Roman merchant and devout believer in the Greco-Roman religion. She grew to become very beautiful and desirable. On his return from a business trip, Dioscorus ordered that a tower be built for his daughter away from influences of the new religion that was slowly encroaching into Roman society, to prevent her from indulging in her habit of helping the poor, and to keep her away from undesirable suitors. At this time, the Christian faith had only been welcomed by the poor and needy. Dioscorus had contempt for this scruffy movement, but beyond his personal prejudice was the political reality that any association with the outlawed religion would hurt his grain business.
Barbara spent years in the tower. She got her food and laundry by way of a basket on a rope. Her father began bringing suitors of his choosing but by then Barbara had lost all interest in marriage. One day, a stranger put a book in the basket from which Barbara learned about the new religion. Barbara so longed to know more about Christianity that she grew ill. Her father sent for a doctor and when the healer arrived, the father in his agitation, did not ask what kind of doctor this was. He was, in fact, a priest -- Origen. Barbara asked the priest many questions and received baptism. Shortly after, her father was called away. In his absence, Barbara ordered the men who worked on the estate, to add a third window into the tower. As she was the daughter of their employer, they complied. On his return, Dioscorus inquired into the meaning of the third window, to which Barbara replied that she had converted to Christianity and that they symbolized the three faces of God; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The father told her she must renounce her new faith or die. When she refused, he betrayed her to the Roman authorities who tortured her but were unable to get her to give up her beliefs. They even tried to shame her by parading her through town naked. The angels sent a convenient fog that completely hid her. Eventually, they ordered her father to kill her. He tried to end her life by a variety of horrific means, but she slipped to safety again and again -- becoming more radiant and holy each time she affirmed her faith.
And so did Barbara die at the hands of her own father. Even as the sword fell, lightning fell upon this cruel father and consumed him as he stood. Because lightning appeared to revenge the death of Barbara, she became the protectress against lightning and thunder. Ordnance men, regardless of the flags under which they served through the centuries, have claimed Barbara as their patron saint; the powder storage room of a French warship is still called Sainte-Barbe.