During the rule of Maximius, in the year 290 AD, the governor in the Anatolian city of Heliopolis was Dioscuros. He was a wealthy man who was originally from the nearby village of Galassos. He had only one child, a very beautiful girl named Barbara. Her parents were extremely proud of her, not only because of her beauty, but of her virtuosity as well.
To protect her, her parents erected a fortress in which they placed Barbara while still young, as was the case with Saint Christina. They supplied her with all her needs; servants, food and clothing. When Barbara came of age, many military officers of Heliopolis asked her father for her hand in marriage, for they had heard of her great beauty and charm. He refused, however, to give his promise to anyone until he conferred with his daughter. Barbara responded by telling her father that if he forced her to marry she would commit suicide. Dioscuros left the fortress believing that in time he could convince her to consent to marriage.
Dioscuros, deciding to add a bathing house to the fortress, left the plans with the builders and instructed them to begin work while he departed for another city where he had some pressing business. During her father's absence, Barbara had the opportunity to leave her living quarters and observe the erection of the bathing house. Upon discovering that the building was to have only two windows, she asked the builders to install a third, and that she would assume the responsibility.
Our God, who knows everything before it occurs, was extremely pleased with Barbara's innocence and filled her heart with the Holy Spirit and with the love of Christ. While standing by the pool of the bath house, Barbara made the sign of the cross on the marble with her finger. Miraculously, her finger chiselled the cross deeply into the marble.
One day, returning from the bath house, Barbara noticed the false gods which her father worshipped and she spat at them. She returned to the fortress, fasting and praying that she would receive Divine Guidance.
When her father returned, he saw the third window in the bath house and questioned the builders, who informed him that his daughter had ordered the third window installed. After questioning Barbara whether there was any particular reason for three, she told him that Three Lights guide everyone who walks the earth. Making the sign of the cross with three fingers she said that one signifies the Father, one the Son, and the other the Holy Spirit, and with these three Lights the whole world is guided. These words angered her father and made him forget that Barbara was his daughter. Drawing his sword and threatening to kill her, Barbara fled to a nearby mountain. Reaching the top, she raised her arms and prayed to God for help. The earth parted and swallowed most of her body. In the meantime, her father asked two shepherds whether they had seen his daughter. The first told him that he hadn't, so that she might be spared, however, the other pointed in the Saint's direction.
Finding his daughter, Dioscuros forced her back to the fortress and locked her up. He then went to the ruler of the city named Marcius and informed him that Barbara was a Christian. She was then given to Marcius with her father's damnation. Marcius had the Saint stripped and beaten with sticks, then her wounds rubbed with vinegar. She was then imprisoned. Towards midnight a bright light appeared to Barbara and a voice told her not to fear, Christ was always with her. As soon as the words were spoken, all her wounds disappeared. A God-fearing woman, named Julia, who was imprisoned with Barbara, saw the miracle. She praised God with all her heart and decided to martyr for her Christian beliefs.
The tortures continued for Barbara. The ruler ordered his soldiers to tear the Saint's body with iron claws, to burn her with torches and to hit her head with a spiked club.
Julia, witnessing the torture felt so much sorrow that she began to cry uncontrollably. Discovering that she was also a Christian, Marcius ordered that she be hung beside the Saint to suffer the same tortures. He then had his soldiers cut off the martyr's breasts then taken back to prison.
St. Barbara was stripped of her clothing to be marched throughout the city. Seeing though that he could not overcome the Saint with threats and tortures, Marcius ordered his soldiers to behead both Barbara and Julia.
Present at all these tortures was Dioscuros, Barbara's father. He felt neither pain nor remorse for what he had done to his only child. When the ruler sentenced them to death, Dioscuros requested that he be permitted to perform the execution of his daughter. Barbara and Julia were taken to the mountain where Dioscuros had previously captured his daughter. He beheaded St. Barbara and a soldier beheaded St. Julia. For several seconds the earth shook. The earth then opened and swallowed the bodies of the two martyrs.
God was quick with Divine Retribution to Dioscuros, for as he was descending the mountain, a thunder storm arose. A bolt of lightning descended from the heavens and killed this bloodthirsty tyrant. A second bold of lightning immediately descended and murdered St. Julia's executioner.
When Marcius heard of the events which occurred at the execution he became psychologically distressed and soon afterwards died of his remorse.
After several days, a pious Christian named Valentios saw in his dream two white robed virgins who instructed him to go to the mountain on which the Saints had been executed and to dig to find their bodies. Valentios immediately arose from his bed and with several other Christians, went to the mountain to carry out the Saint's instructions. After digging for several hours, they found the holy bodies of Sts Barbara and Julia. With great respect and reverence, they venerated the bodies of the Saints. The holy bodies of the martyrs were taken to the village of Galassos where they were entombed with honour.
St. Barbara is considered one of the major Saints of our Church and her memory is celebrated on December 17.
The Holy Great Martyr Barbara
Saint Barbara was the only daughter of Dioscorus, a highborn and early widowed pagan who was despotic and held sway over his subjects demanding unquestioning obedience. He loved his daughter, Barbara, more than anything in the world, but being narrow-minded as a pagan he cared for her earthly well-being. St. Barbara lived in the town of Heliopolis of Phoenicia (Northern part of the Holy Land) at the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 4th century. Dioscorus was afraid that if Barbara who was both intelligent and beautiful mixed with people around her, she would make friends with somebody of a lower standing than hers, so he built a splendid house with a tower and shut her up there. He surrounded her with all possible comforts, gave her a host of attendants, set up idols for worship and built her a bathroom with two windows.
Alone in her tower, young Barbara found consolation sitting by the windows and enjoying the beauty of the earth below and the starry sky above. She saw the range of hills stretching out to the horizon, emerald green valleys, and white clouds floating across the blue dome of the sky, she sensed the aroma of field flowers and herbs. After sunset Barbara watched billions of lights appearing one after another on the dark sky, and her innocent soul was exulted with rapture and desire to learn about the One who created that heavenly beauty. Her pagan tutors failed to provide answers satisfying her long quest and contemplation. Barbara’s mind was opened by the grace of God and although she had no human teacher to bring her to the knowledge of Him, she came to the conclusion that there is one true God and Creator, merciful, wise and omnipotent, who is the Creator and the Giver of life. It was that God, whom young Barbara aspired to know.
When Barbara came of age, her father decided that she should get marred. There were crowds of bridegrooms seeking her hand, but she invented reasons to refuse them all. Thinking that it was the long seclusion that made Barbara so unsociable, her father let her out of her tower and allowed her to meet people. By God’s providence, she met some Christian maidens who told her about the God-Creator of all and about Christ the Savior. Barbara’s subtle soul helped her to understand that she found the true faith she was dreaming of for so long. Barbara’s heart was set on fire with love for Christ. When her father was away, she had a third window cut in the sauna room of her castle as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, and traced a Cross with her finger on one wall of it, which etched itself deep in the marble as if cut by a chisel. A spring of water gushed forth from the sauna floor from her footprint, and it later gave healing from sickness to many. Having come to the true faith she got baptized secretly from her father.
When Dioscorus came back home, he was surprised to see that the tower had three windows instead of the two that he had ordered and there was the sign of cross on a marble wall. He interrogated Barbara and she could no longer conceal her Christianity from him. She explained that the three windows symbolize the Holy Trinity, and that she drew the cross in remembrance of the Savior’s crucifixion. Outraged to insanity he beat her harshly and drove her from the tower, chasing after her to kill her with his sword, but a cliff opened and hid Barbara from her irate father.
When she appeared the next day, Dioscorus locked her up for several days with no food. Then he handed her over to Marcian, the governor of the city, reporting she is a Christian and saying, "Do whatever you choose to her. I renounce her."
Enchanted by Barbara’s beauty, Marcian spoke kindly to her trying to persuade her to disavow her faith and make a sacrifice to pagan gods. Barbara denounced his proposal resolutely and declared bravely in front of all present that she believes in Christ as God and Savior of people. The courageous confession of the young maiden infuriated the ruler and he handed her over for many bodily and moral tortures. Neither stripping of her body, nor beating her with bull skinflints in public until her entire body was covered in bloody wounds broke Barbara’s strong spirit. She was constantly praying God and setting all her hope and trust in Him during her sufferings. After many fearful tortures St. Barbara was cast into prison where the Lord Himself appeared to her with many angels, and healed her wounds and promised her a great reward in heaven.
In the morning the torturers were amazed to see the martyr healed and in good health. But they were not turned to reason even by that obvious wonder ascribing it to the works of their gods. The governor again tried to make her worship pagan idols, but she remained staunch. Then she was subjected to new tortures, but Saint Barbara regained her spiritual strength in her fervent prayers to God. Seeing that no means would make the Christians disavow their faith, the governor ordered them to be beheaded. For more humiliation Saint Barbara was brought to the place of execution stripped naked. But the Lord worked wonder to comfort His martyr: heavenly light wrapped her body as if by a garment and she was not exposed to the pagan scum. Before death St. Barbara prayed to God that all those remembering her martyrdom and asking for her help would be delivered from a sudden death. The Lord heard her prayer and she heard a voice promising her that.
A certain woman, Juliana, beheld this and condemned the rulers for their cruelty, she was slain by soldiers while Barbara’s beheading was executed by her own father who got demonically vicious.
The Lord’s Judgement came very soon. On the same day, lightning struck Dioscorus’s house, killing both him and Marcian, their bodies were completely incinerated.
St. Barbara suffered in 306, and her wonderworking relics were reverently preserved by the Greek church for several centuries. In 1108 Greek empress Barbara married the Kiev prince Sviatopolk, son of Iziaslavl. She brought the relics of her holy benefactress and they were placed in the Gold-dome monastery of St. Michael in Kiev.
Greatly glorified in the Kingdom of Christ, she has appeared many times down to our own days, sometimes alone and sometimes in the company of the most holy Mother of God.
Troparion, Tone 4