Friday, December 4, 2009

St Barbara - II

Having just risen from my prie-dieu, I thought I should note that to-day is the commemoration of St Barbara, and therefore my mother's name day (I reminded her this morning, to her surprise, and her chagrin when I further explained that the name means "female barbarian"!), who, as the modern Martyrology puts it, 'tis said to have been (fuisse traditur) a Virgin and Martyr at Nicomedia. The 1962 Martyrology adds the affecting details that she suffered under Maximian, her martyrdom being completed by the sword, after the dire maceration of prison, burning with lamps, the severing of her breasts (there are some truly horrible, and quite improper, paintings of this) and other torments.

The Easterners, not to be outdone, style her a Great Martyr...

The later legends about her being imprisoned by a jealous father in a tower in which she inveigled to have three windows, in honour of the Trinity, or yet more bizarrely improbably, that she was swallowed by a dragon, but escaped by making the sign of the Cross within its belly, whereupon the monster burst asunder to allow her egress, making her patroness of artillerymen (?) and of childbirth by Cæsarean section (!), may be considered rather obviously apocryphal and even silly, I think.

In any case, to this holy Martyr (whose sainthood I must own to have once questioned to my sorrow, because I was deceived by modern sceptics before I consulted the Church's own approved books) I entrust my mother, a very dear lady!

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