Saint Barbara, known as the Great Martyr Barbara in the Orthodox Church, was a Christian saint and martyr, who lived in the 3rd Century. In other words, a fair old while ago.
Tradition has it that Saint Barbara was born about 300 A.D. in Nicomedia, Bithynia in Asia Minor. Her father, Dioscurus, was the head of a wealthy aristocratic family. Her parents loved her for her beauty, intelligence and modesty. Dioscurus, who was cruel and a pagan, had her shut in a tower in order to preserve her from suitors.
Influenced by the deacon Valentinus, who later became a bishop and martyr himself, she secretly converted from Polytheism to Christianity. Her father commanded that she be built a bath-house, so that she would not have to use the public baths. The design for the bath-house originally had two windows, but Barbara had a third installed to commemorate the Trinity. She also carved a cross into the marble floor.
Her father, seeing these changes, discovered that she was a Christian. Dioscurus went to his daughter, and when she tried to convert him to Christianity he became furious and wanted to kill her. However, her prayers created an opening in the tower wall and she escaped. Pursued by her father and guards, she hid in a gorge in the mountains. She stayed hidden here until a shepherd betrayed her. As legend has it, the shepherd was transformed into a marble statue and his herd into grasshoppers.
Despite being tortured, Barbara held true to her faith. During the night, the dark prison was bathed in light and new miracles occurred. Every morning her wounds were healed. Torches that were to be used to burn her went out as soon as they came near her. But she did not waver from her faith. Her father had her taken to a Roman imperial magistrate during a persecution of Christians, who ordered her to be beheaded, and directed that her father carry out the sentence himself. He dragged her up to a mountain and killed her. However, after having done so, he became frightened and tried to flee but, according to the story, was struck dead by lightning in divine retribution. This was the fourth miraculous occurrence during Barbara’s long and painful martyrdom, and according to the legend, Barbara died a martyr’s death on 4 December 306 A.D. Juliana of Nicomedia suffered martyrdom along with Barbara and is likewise venerated as a saint.
St Barbara is the Patron Saint of the Royal Artillery due to her mastery of Joint Fires and her willingness to unleash hell.