The Holy Great Martyr Barbara -Commemorated on December 4

The Holy Great Martyr Barbara lived during the reign of Emperor Maximian (305-311). Her father,
the pagan Dioscorus, was a rich and illustrious man in the Syriancity of Heliopolis. After the death of
his wife, he devoted himself to his only daughter. Realizing Barbara’s extraordinary beauty, Dioscorus hid her from the eyes of strangers. He built a tower where only her pagan teachers were allowed to see her. From the tower, there was a view of hills stretching into the distance. By day she was able to gaze upon the wooded hills, the swiftly flowing rivers, and the meadows covered with a blanket of flowers; by night the harmonious and majestic heavens twinkled and provided a spectacle of inexpressible beauty. Soon she began to ask herself questions about the Creator of so splendid a
world. Gradually, she became convinced that the soulless idols were merely the work of human hands. Although her father and teachers offered them worship, she realized that the idols could not have made the surrounding world. The desire to know the True God so consumed her soul that Barbara decided to devote all her life to this goal, and to spend her life in virginity.

The fame of Barbara’s beauty spread throughout the city, and many sought her hand in
marriage. Despite the entreaties of her father, she refused all of them. Barbara warned
her father that his persistence might separate them forever. Dioscorus decided that his
daughter’s temperament had been affected by her life of seclusion. He therefore
permitted her to leave the tower and gave her full freedom in her choice of friends and
acquaintances. Barbara met young Christian maidens in the city, and they taught her
about the Creator of the world, the Trinity, and the Divine Logos. Through the
Providence of God, a priest arrived from Alexandria disguised as a merchant. After
instructing her in the mysteries of the Christian Faith, he baptized Barbara, then returned
to his own country.

At this same time, a luxurious bathhouse was being built at Dioscorus’s home. By his
orders, the workers prepared two windows on the south side, but Barbara, taking
advantage of her father’s absence, asked them to make a third window, thereby forming
a Trinity of light. On one of the walls of the bathhouse, Barbara traced a cross into the
marble with her finger. Later, her footprints came to be imprinted on the stone steps. The
water of the bathhouse had great healing power, with St. Simeon Metaphrastes
comparing it to the stream of Jordan and the Pool of Siloam.

When Dioscorus returned and saw the changes to the bathhouse, Barbara told him
about how she had come to know about the saving power of the Son of God and the
futility of worshipping idols. Dioscorus became enraged, grabbing a sword and almost
striking her with it. Barbara fled, but her father rushed after her. His path became
blocked by a hill, which opened up and concealed St. Barbara in a crevice.
After a long and fruitless search for his daughter, Dioscorus encountered two shepherds
on the same hill. One of them showed him the cave where St. Barbara had hidden.
Dioscorus found his daughter, beat her, and placed her under guard, attempting to wear
her down with hunger. Finally, he handed her over to the prefect of the city, Martianus.
St. Barbara was beaten incessantly. By night, she prayed fervently to her Heavenly
Bridegroom, and the Savior Himself appeared and healed her wounds. Upon seeing that
her wounds were healed, she was subjected to new tortures. In the crowd where
Barbara was being tortured was a virtuous Christian woman, Juliana. Her heart was
filled with sympathy for the voluntary martyrdom of the beautiful young woman, and she
also wanted to suffer for Christ. Juliana began to denounce the torturers in a loud voice,
and they seized her.
Both women were repeatedly tortured. Their bodies were raked and wounded with
hooks, and they were led naked through the city amidst derision and jeers. Through the
prayers of St. Barbara, the Lord sent an angel who covered the nakedness of the holy
martyrs with a splendid robe. Shortly thereafter, Sts. Barbara and Juliana were
beheaded, with Dioscorus himself delivering the fatal blow to his own daughter. The
wrath of God was not slow to punish both Martianus and Dioscorus – they were killed
after being struck by lightning.

In the sixth century, the relics of the holy Greatmartyr Barbara were transferred to
Constantinople. Six hundred years later, they were transferred to Kiev by Barbara, the
daughter of Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenos, who married Russian Prince Michael
Izyaslavich. They rest at Kiev’s St. Vladimir Cathedral, where an Akathist to the saint is
served each Tuesday. Many pious Orthodox Christians are in the habit of chanting the
Troparion of St. Barbara each day, recalling the Savior’s promise that those who
remembered her and her sufferings would be preserved from a sudden, unexpected
death, and would not depart this life without the benefit of the Holy Mysteries of Christ.

Troparion (Tone 8)
Let us honor the holy martyr Barbara,
for as a bird she escaped the snares of the enemy,
and destroyed them through the help and defense
of the Cross.
Kontakion (Tone 4)
Singing the praises of the Trinity,
you followed God by enduring suffering;
you renounced the multitude of idols,
O holy martyr Barbara.
In your struggles, you were not frightened by the threats of your torturers, but cried out in
a loud voice:
“I worship the Trinity in one God-head.”

By permission of the Orthodox Church in America (


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