According to the accounts of her life that circulated from the seventh century, Barbara’s father was a wealthy pagan named Dioscorus. Because of her great beauty, he carefully guarded her virginity and kept her shut up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world.

Having heard the teachings of the gospel by means of a tutor, however, she contemplated life’s meaning from her luxurious prison, meditating on the beauties of the natural world outside her window and deciding that the teachings of the church about God and Jesus must indeed be true. Dioscorus’ paternal love for Barbara was extremely possessive, but he lavished generous symbols of his affection upon her. Before going on a journey, he commanded that a luxurious private bath-house be erected for her use near her dwelling. During his absence, Barbara altered her father’s design and had three windows put in it, as a symbol of the Trinity, instead of the two originally intended.

When her father returned, she acknowledged that she was a Christian. He was outraged by this, pressuring her to recant, treating her badly, and ultimately denouncing her to the prefect of the province. This governor, Martinianus by name, had Barbara cruelly tortured and finally condemned to death by beheading. She held to her faith despite her treatment. During the night, the dark prison was bathed in light, and every morning the wounds from her tortures were healed. Torches that were to be used to burn her went out as soon as they came near her skin.

Shockingly, Barbara’s father, a loyal Roman citizen who preferred her to die rather than that she remain a Christian, carried out the death sentence by his own hand. In one version of the story, Barbara’s beautiful long hair burst into flames after he grabbed it to strike the fatal blow. In punishment for his sin of murdering her, he was struck by lightning on the way home (or immediately in other versions) and his body was entirely consumed by the resulting fire.