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About St. Barbara


273 — 306
Feast Day December 4
Patron Saint of architects, artillerymen, firemen, mariners, miners, chemical engineers and prisoners.

Barbara was a maiden of such great beauty that her father locked her in a tower to remove her from the many ardent suitors who were not to his liking. Barbara's father was devoted to the Greco-Roman religious system and he especially wanted keep her from talking to any followers of a new religion that he saw as dangerous. He was worried that she might convert as the new religion, Christianity, was beginning to nibble at the margins of Roman society. Barbara's father was a rich merchant who had contempt for this scruffy movement. Beyond his personal prejudice was the political reality that any association with the outlawed religion would hurt his grain business.

Barbara spent years in the tower and received her food and laundry by way of a basket on a rope. Her father began bringing suitors of his choosing but by then Barbara had lost all interest in marriage. One day, a stranger put a book in the basket from which Barbara learned about the new religion. Barbara so longed to know more about Christianity that she grew ill. Her father sent for a doctor and when the healer arrived, the father in his agitation, did not ask what kind of doctor this was. He was, in fact, a priest — a doctor of the soul. Barbara asked the priest many questions and was baptized. 

Shortly thereafter, her father had to go away from their home on a journey. Barbara asked the men who worked on the estate to make a third window in her tower. When her father returned and asked the meaning of the third window, Barbara told him that she had converted to Christianity and wanted to have three windows to be reminded of the Trinity. This bit of remodeling earned Barbara the honor of becoming the patron saint of architects.

Her father told her she must renounce her new faith or die. When she refused, he betrayed her to the Roman authorities who tortured her but were unable to get her to give up her beliefs. They even tried to shame her by parading her through town naked. Heavenly angels sent a convenient fog that completely hid her. Eventually, they ordered her father to kill her. He tried to end her life by a variety of horrific means, but she slipped to safety again and again, becoming more radiant and holy each time she affirmed her faith. Finally, he grabbed her beautiful long hair and beheaded her. At that moment, bright flames flew out of her body and a moment later, lightning struck her father and killed him. Because of her father's fate, her name is invoked in prayers of protection from lightning and fire.

The city of Santa Barbara in California was named by the Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino. On December 4th, 1602 the great explorer stopped at a particularly lovely place on the California coast. He chose to name the spot after the patron of that day, Saint Barbara, in gratitude for having survived a violent storm in the channel the previous day. The island and channel of the same name also got their designations on this occasion. It is fitting that a body of ocean bears her name, as Barbara is also the patron saint of mariners.