chapter  Chapter 6
16 Pages

The Tower and The Chalice

Julia Kristeva and the Story of Santa Barbara
WithKathleen O’Grady

The paintings of Barbara make clear in a single image what the story can only suggest. Barbara can be recognised by the symbols that accompany her presence: a long narrow tower carried in one arm and a wide-mouthed chalice nestled in the other. Barbara is a stranger in a strange land, mourning both her motherland and her mother, whose presence is felt only through her absence from the tale. The story of Barbara is a little-known patristic Catholic and Orthodox legend of a virgin and martyr, dated anywhere, by various sources, between the second and seventh centuries. Barbara is so loved by her father that he builds for her a protective tower. But despite her imprisonment, Barbara discovers the Catholic faith. St Barbara is Kristeva as the quintessential stranger, a wandering theological daughter whose ‘bara-bara’ mutterings will continue to threaten those around her.