Kids, if you thought your folks are hard on you, be glad you didn’t have Saint Barbara’s dad.
Barbara’s claim to fame was being kept in isolation in a tower by her father Dioscorus, a prominent pagan in Asia Minor, around 300 AD.
Dioscorus grew upset at his daughter’s refusal of several marriage proposals by eligible suitor-princes. Before leaving on a business trip, Dioscorus ordered his workers to construct a bathhouse for Barbara. The bathhouse had two windows. But in her father’s absence, Barbara asked the workmen to put in a third window. When Dioscorus returned he was infuriated by the deviation from his plan. Barbara confessed she did it in honor of the Holy Trinity, and that she was a Christian, having been secretly tutored by a priest.
As any concerned father would do, Dioscorus took her to the Roman prefect, Marcian, who ordered Barbara to be tortured until she renounced her faith. Young Barbara withstood heinous tortures, but did not renounce Christ. When Marcian ordered her execution, Dioscorus offered to do it himself. Barbara was beheaded by her own father around 303 AD. Dioscorus was then struck by a bolt of lightning and died.
Because of the method of her father’s demise, Barbara became the patron saint of those threatened by thunderstorms and fire. And later became the patron saint of miners and artillerymen.
Rome had the last laugh on Barbara though. In 1969, after over a thousand years, the Catholic Church officially removed her Feast Day–like Saint Brigid–for lack of any evidence that she ever existed.
Barbara’s legend is still strong in Germany and northern Europe, where Barbara is celebrated on December 4, the assumed date of her martyrdom. It’s customary to place a twig from a cherry branch (Barbarazweig) in water on this day, to bloom by Christmas. While imprisoned Barbara had found a cherry branch in her cell and moistened it with her drinking water. Before her death, it bloomed, and brought her joy.
The U.S. Field Artillery has two military orders in her name, the Ancient Order of Saint Barbara and the Honorable Order of Saint Barbara.