She lived in Asia Minor in the third century, legend has it, the daughter of Dioscorus, a strict pagan father who locked her up in a tower to shield her from the world. She secretly converted to Christianity and wouldn’t agree to an arranged marriage. Her father had her condemned to death. She escaped several times through divine intervention, and finally Dioscorus took it upon himself to behead her.
God got even with the old man, however. On his way home from killing his daughter, the father was blown to smithereens by a bolt of lightning.
So Saint Barbara became the patron saint of artillerymen, armorers, military engineers, gunsmiths, miners, bomb squads, and anyone else who works with cannon and explosives. She is invoked against thunder and lightning and all accidents arising from explosions of gunpowder. She is venerated by every Catholic who faces the danger of sudden and violent death in work.
Pope Paul VI removed Barbara from the Calendar of Saints in 1969, citing the improbability that she actually lived. No matter. Her feast day, December 4, is still celebrated in many countries of the world.
The US Army Field Artillery Association and Army Air Defense Artillery Association maintain the Order of Saint Barbara as an honorary military society. Its most distinguished level is the Ancient Order of Saint Barbara for those who have achieved long-term, exceptional service to the field artillery. Membership at that level must be approved of by the Commanding General, United States Army Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill.
The Spanish and Italian word santabarbara and the obsolete French sainte-barbe signify the powder 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 also the patron of the Italian Navy.
So who needs Barbie dolls when you’ve got Saint Barbara on your side?