Saint Barbara (or in Greek Αγία Βαρβάρα, Coptic Ϯⲁⲅⲓⲁ Ⲃⲁⲣⲃⲁⲣⲁ) was the daughter of a rich pagan by the name of Dioscorus and was kept locked in a tower to protect her and preserve her from the outside world and the dangers that existed. She converted to Christianity in secret. The legend continues that when her father left on a trip, she had three windows installed in the bathhouse next to the tower (that he had constructed for her) in a way to show her belief of the Trinity. When he returned, she confessed that she had converted from the pagan religion of her father and he immediately drew a sword to kill her. She dropped to her knees in prayer and miraculously part of the tower wall opened and transported her to a nearby mountain gorge.
She found her self in a flock of sheep between two shepherds - the first defended her against her father but the second betrayed her. The shepherd who betrayed her was turned to stone and, according to the legend, his flock turned into a great cloud of locusts. Her father brought her in front of the prefect Martinianus who had her tortured day and night for her faith; miraculously each morning she awoke to find her wounds completely healed. The prefect sentenced to Saint Barbara to beheading - her own father carried out the task with a sword. Saint Barbara was buried by a Christian with the name of Valentinus and her tomb reportedly became the site of several miracles. On the way back to his home, Saint Barbara's father was struck by a wicked bolt of lightning and his body completely consumed by the flames.
Though her feast day was removed in the 1969 General Roman Calendar revision, her veneration can be traced all the way back to the 7th century in the East and was considered to be one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers in the medieval period. Her relics were brought from Constantinople to Saint Michael's Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv in the 12th century before being moved to Saint Volodymyr's Cathedral in the 1930's.
In addition to being one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, Saint Barbara is venerated by those who face sudden and violent deaths at work, including being the patron saint of miners, tunnellers, armorers, engineers, gunsmiths and those who work with explorers. The Spanish word santabárbara signifies the powder magazine of a ship. Saint Barbara is the patron saint of the Gunnery Branch of the British Royal Navy. In Sir Reginald Hugh Spencer Bacon's Britain's Glorious Navy he wrote:
'On the dining-table in the ward-room at Whale Island, a delightful silver statuette of Saint Barbara, the patron saint of Artillerists, smiles down on successive generations of gunnery officers who will not let her, or the Navy, down. Their job is to get straddles with full-gun salvoes of a reasonable spread; Saint Barbara herself arranges the hits.'
Saint Barbara is also the patron saint of the Royal Army Ordance Corps and the Irish Army venerates her as the Patron Saint of the Artillery Corps. Her feast day, December 4th , is celebrated by the British (Royal Artillery, RAF Armourers and Royal Engineers), Australian (Royal Regiment of Australian Artillery, RAAF Armourers), Canadian (Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians (EOD), Canadian Air Force Armourers, Royal Canadian Artillery, Canadian Military Field Engineers, Royal Canadian Navy Weapons Engineering Technicians), and New Zealand (RNZN Gunners Branch, RNZA, Royal New Zealand Army Ordnance Corps, RNZAF Armourers) armed forces. In the United States, she is celebrated by the Army and Marine Corps Field and Air Defense Artillery, and Marine Corps Explosive Ordance Disposal Teams.
The United States Field Artillery Association and Army Air Defense Artillery Association maintain the Order of Saint Barbara as a honorary military society.
In the United States, the town of Santa Barbara California was named after her in the year 1602 when Sebastian Vizcaino survived a violent storm just offshore on her feast day. The Catholic Missionary Church Santa Barbara, was founded on her feast day in 1786 and is one of the twenty-one churches operated by the Franciscan Order, known as the California Missions. The county, Santa Barbara, was one of the twenty-seven original counties of California when the land became a state.
In 1864, when chemist Adolf von Baeyer was at a tavern celebrating the discovery of a new medicine compound he ran into an artilleryman celebrating Saint Barbara's feast day. The man suggested to Adolf that the new medicine be named after here, and the barbiturate family of pharmaceutical drugs derives it name from this encounter.
In country of Georgia, Saint Barbara's Day is celebrated on December 17th with a festive food known as lobiani (bread with bean stuffing). Her feast day is celebrated by the Artillery Corps of the Greek Armmy and Cyproit National Guard in Greece with traditional loukoumades given to soldiers and tourists. In North Macedonia, an ancient tradition states that those who step in their house on Saint Barbara's house will either be given good or terrible luck the rest of the year. In Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Palestine Arab Christians celebrate the day as Eid il-Burbara on December 4th with a traditional food named Burbara (boiled barley, pomegranate seeds, raisins, anise and sugar).