Barbara (fl. 3rd c.)

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Barbara (fl. 3rd c.)

Christian martyr and saint. Lived and suffered martyrdom in the city of Nicomedia in Bithynia, Asia Minor;

died around 235 ce; the place of her martyrdom is variously given as Heliopolis, as a town of Tuscany, and as Nicomedia, Bithynia; daughter of Dioscorus.

To prevent his daughter Barbara from being disturbed in her studies, Dioscorus built a tower, surrounded by marvelous gardens. There, she spent her youth while receiving philosophers, orators, and poets dispatched by Dioscorus to instruct her in the meaning of all things. Without her father's knowledge, Barbara became converted to Christianity by a follower of Origen and secretly baptized. She threw out her statues of the "false gods," traced the sign of the cross over walls, resolved to remain a virgin, and dedicated herself to God. When Dioscorus threatened to kill his blaspheming daughter, Barbara fled to the mountains, but she was captured and handed over to Martianus, the Roman governor of Bithynia, to be dealt with by the law.

When Martianus failed in his attempts to make Barbara repudiate Christianity, Dioscorus asked for the honor of cutting off his daughter's head in punishment. Scarcely had the deed been done when, according to legend, Dioscorus was struck by lightning. St. Barbara became the patron saint of storms and artillery. At one time, her image was frequently placed on arsenals and powder magazines, and the powder room of a French warship is still called Sainte-Barbe. In Raphael's Sistine Madonna, she is depicted on the left of the Virgin Mary. The feast day of Saint Barbara is December 4.

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