Santa Barbara: smite him with lightning

Today is Saint Barbara’s feast day. Draw near and sit with me, for today’s telling of the lives of the saints. There will be miracles.


(#1) St. Barbara as envisioned by sculptor Corrado Parducci at St. Barbara’s Church in Dearborn MI

From Wikipedia:

Saint Barbara, Feast Day December 4, known in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the Great Martyr Barbara, was an early Christian Greek saint and martyr. Accounts place her in the 3rd century in Heliopolis of Syria, present-day Baalbek, Lebanon. There is no reference to her in the authentic early Christian writings nor in the original recension of Saint Jerome’s martyrology. Her name can be traced to the 7th century, and veneration of her was common, especially in the East, from the 9th century.

Because of doubts about the historicity of her legend, she was removed from the General Roman Calendar in the 1969 revision, though not from the Catholic Church’s list of saints.

Saint Barbara is often portrayed with miniature chains and a tower. As one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, Barbara continues to be a popular saint in modern times, perhaps best known as the patron saint of armourers, artillerymen, military engineers, miners and others who work with explosives because of her old legend’s association with lightning, and also of mathematicians.

… According to the hagiographies, Barbara, the daughter of a rich pagan named Dioscorus, was carefully guarded by her father who kept her locked up in a tower in order to preserve her from the outside world. Having secretly become a Christian, she rejected an offer of marriage that she received through her father.

Before going on a journey, her father commanded that a private bath-house be erected for her use near her dwelling, and during his absence, Barbara had three windows put in it, as a symbol of the Holy Trinity, instead of the two originally intended. When her father returned, she acknowledged herself to be a Christian; upon this he drew his sword to kill her, but her prayers created an opening in the tower wall and she was miraculously transported to a mountain gorge, where two shepherds watched their flocks. Dioscorus, in pursuit of his daughter, was rebuffed by the first shepherd, but the second betrayed her. For doing this, he was turned to stone and his flock was changed to locusts. [AZ: This is my absolute favorite part.]

Dragged before the prefect of the province, Martinianus, who had her cruelly tortured, Barbara held true to her Christian faith. During the night, the dark prison was bathed in light and new miracles occurred. Every morning, her wounds were healed. Torches that were to be used to burn her went out as soon as they came near her. Finally, she was condemned to death by beheading. Her father himself carried out the death-sentence. However, as punishment, he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body was consumed by flame. [AZ: the runner-up in the Miraculous Barbara sweepstakes]

… Saint Barbara’s Day, December 4, is celebrated by [a large assortment of British, Australian, Canadian, and New Zealand military artillery units].

… Saint Barbara’s Day is celebrated by United States Army and Marine Corps Field and Air Defense Artillery, many Marine Corps Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians. The units and sub-units celebrate the day with church parades, sports days, guest nights, cocktail parties, dinners and other activities. Several mining institutions also celebrate it, such as some branches of the Australian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy. … In the mining town Kalgoorlie, Australia, as patron saint of miners she is venerated in the annual St. Barbara’s Day parade.

On the 1969 reorganization of the Roman Catholic calendar, from Wikipedia:

Mysterii Paschalis is an apostolic letter issued motu proprio (that is, “of his own accord”) by Pope Paul VI on 14 February 1969. It reorganized the liturgical year of the Roman Rite and revised the liturgical celebrations of Jesus Christ and the saints in the General Roman Calendar.

… Progress in historical and hagiographical studies led to distinguishing three classes of saints included in the 1960 calendar that it seemed better not to keep in the revision. One class is that of the saints about whom there are serious historical problems. It cannot be affirmed that they did not exist, but the lack of clear grounds for venerating them led to their exclusion from the 1969 calendar with the single exception of Saint Cecilia (22 November) by reason of popular devotion to her. Another class is that of those ancient Roman martyrs about whom there is clear historical evidence but of whom little, if anything, is known other than their names, with the result that they have little meaning for the faithful of today. A third class is that of the founders of the ancient Roman churches known as tituli and about whom there exists a specific genre of legends. For lack of evidence that they were martyrs or confessors, as pictured in the legends, they were excluded from the revision, again with the single exception of Saint Cecilia.

Changes by removal from the general calendar include: St. Valentine (14 February), St. John and Paul (associated with the Pied Piper legend— 26 June), St. Christopher (25 July), and St. Barbara (4 December).

Corrado Parducci. The story of an accomplished artist who found his spot and stayed there, celebrating it. Diego Rivero was the artist of industrial Detroit, but Corrado Parducci was the artist of everyday Detroit. From Wikipedia:

Corrado Giuseppe Parducci (March 10, 1900 [in Buti, Italy, a small village near Pisa] – November 22, 1981) was an Italian-American architectural sculptor who was a celebrated artist for his numerous early-20th century works. [His family immigrated to New York City in 1904.]

… In 1924 Parducci traveled to Detroit to work for [Albert] Kahn, only planning to stay for a few months. However, with the automotive industry booming in the 1920s, Parducci moved his family to Michigan and ended up spending the rest of his career working from Detroit. … Parducci’s work can be found on many of the Detroit area’s finest buildings including churches, schools, banks, hospitals and residences.

His sculptures can be found in most major Michigan cities including Ann Arbor, Dearborn, Flint, Grand Rapids, Jackson, Kalamazoo, Marquette, Royal Oak, Saginaw, and Ypsilanti.


(#2) Parducci: Horace Rackham Fountain at the Detroit Zoo (1939)

4 Responses to “Santa Barbara: smite him with lightning”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    Love this. A US Army veteran, I had no idea of the Army’s devotion to the saint. In Afro-Caribbean Santería. because of the sword of her martyrdom she represents Changó.

    I had an old lover, long of blest memory, named Barbara, who had a devotion to the saint, but in deference to present company I shall not say more of my horny old fat woman.

  2. julianne taaffe Says:

    When we were in elementary school, my best friend Kathleen and I acted out the lives of the saints, and St. Barbara was one of my favorites. Her story was very dramatic and a little gory, which was always nice. We usually acted them out in Kathleen’s backyard, or, even better, near a small neighborhood creek that ran under a little aqueduct. The aqueduct provide excellent acoustics for the voice of god, should s/he be called upon in our dramas. (Rustic Bridge Drive; very near your street in Columbus!) This would have been shortly before she was removed from the calendar (although I doubt that would have interfered with our dramatic interpretations of her life.)

    December 4th was also my Dad’s birthday. His birthday on the first week of December, my brother Mike’s (Dec. 11th) on the same weekday in the second week, and “Nothing” day (Dec. 18th–“Nothing Tuesday” this year) in the 3rd week were all followed by Christmas Day on that weekday the 4th week of the month. I always thought the candles in my mother’s Advent Wreath corresponded to our family’s celebrations.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      It’s a busy — and mostly very mortal — week. The 4th is St. Barbara, and also Frank Zappa’s death day. The 5th is Krampusnacht. The 6th is St. Nicholas, Mozart’s death day, and Finnish Independence Day. The 7th is Pearl Harbor Day. The 8th is John Lennon’s death day.

  3. [BLOG] Some Thursday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky takes a look at Santa Barbara in some of her many […]

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