XVI – St. Barbara – The Tower

Saint Barbara is another Saint who was deemed a myth and thus removed from the Church calendar in 1968. Her story has always reminded me of the story of Perseus and Danae in Greek mythology, so that’s my opinion of where she came from.

Her story is that her father shut her up in a tower to discourage her suitors as she was a great beauty. Or she was imprisoned for disobedience, accounts vary. Either before or while entrapped there, she became a Christian, and had workers build three windows to represent the Trinity, which enraged her father who was a rich Greek pagan. He tried to kill her and there are several accounts of miracles that allowed her to escape. He then had her tortured and more stories appear of her beheading and the lightning from heaven that struck her father dead after he killed her. All very bloodthirsty, much like a fairy tale. It reminds me of the story of Rapunzel a bit too and seems very imaginative and archetypal.

These stories rolled along for centuries and Barbara had quite a cult by the 9th century. The Church discounted all this because there is no mention of her in early historical documents. I’m betting on the romance of mythology for inspiration of the legend. People often tried to merge old beliefs and stories with Christianity.

Apart from that what can be said? I love this particular illustration of Robert Place’s, he really is a fine artist. He equates her story with the origins of this card as the House of the Devil hit by lightning. It seems natural given the symbolism that her legend be associated with this or even be the inspiration for original the tarot card, although I don’t believe that myself. Place sometimes projects a bit too much of his personal conjecture onto history, which is why I got rid of his book on tarot history.

But he’s done a bang-up job on depicting St. Barbara. I love the composition and colours, it’s one of my favourite pieces of art in the deck.