Saint Barbara, known as the Great Martyress in Orthodox churches, was a Christian saint and martyr, who flourished in the 3rd century AD.
Her story says that Barbara was a beautiful girl who dwelt in the city of Nicomedia in Asia Minor. Dioscurus, her cruel pagan father, had her shut in a tower in order to preserve her from suitors. She nevertheless secretly converted 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. Her father, seeing this change, discovered that she was a Christian. He 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 did so, but, according to the story, was struck dead by lightning in divine retribution. Juliana of Nicomedia suffered the death of a martyr along with Barbara and was likewise sainted.
St. Barbara was formerly one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers. Her association with lightning caused her to be invoked against lightning and fire; by association, she also became the patron of artillery and mining.
In the 12th century, the relics of St. Barbara were brought from Constantinople to the St. Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kiev, where they were kept until the 1930s, when they were transferred to St. Vladimir's Cathedral in the same city. Her veneration in the Eastern Orthodox Church remains very popular and her feast day is celebrated on December 4.
In the Spanish language, the word santabárbara means the magazine of a ship or fortress. It was customary to have a statue of Saint Barbara at the magazine to protect the ship or fortress from suddenly exploding. She is the namesake of the U.S. city of Santa Barbara, California, located north of Los Angeles. There were many churches dedicated in her name in Russia, including the one in Moscow next to Saint Basil's Cathedral and in Yaroslavl.
She is depicted in art as standing by a tower with three windows, carrying a palm branch and a chalice; sometimes cannons are depicted by her side.