Saint Barbara became the patron saint of artillerymen. She is also traditionally the patron of armourers, military engineers, gunsmiths, miners and anyone else who worked with cannon and explosives. She is invoked against thunder and lightning and all accidents arising from explosions of gunpowder. She is venerated by everyone who faces the danger of sudden and violent death in work.
The Spanish word santabárbara and the corresponding Italian word santabarbara mean 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.
Saint Barbara’s Day, 4 December, may be celebrated by British (Royal_Artillery, RAF Armourers), Australian (RAAF Armourers), Canadian (Royal Canadian Artillery) and New Zealand (RNZA) artillery formations, units and sub-units with church parades, sports days, guest nights, cocktail parties, open house, and other activities. The Order of Saint Barbara is a military honor society of the US for both the US Army and the US Marine Corps Artillery, including field artillery and Air Defense Artillery.
The city of Santa Barbara, California, located approximately 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles, is some called because of the Franciscan mission there that was dedicated to her. There were many churches dedicated in her name in Russia, including one in Moscow next to Saint Basil's Cathedral and in Yaroslavl.
According to the legendary accounts of her life that circulated from the seventh century, Barbara was the daughter of a rich heathen named Dioscorus. She was carefully guarded by her father who kept her shut 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 him. Before going on a journey, he 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 she was ill-treated by him and dragged before the prefect of the province, Martinianus, who had her cruelly tortured and finally condemned her to death by beheading. The father himself carried out the death-sentence, but in punishment for this he was struck by lightning on the way home and his body consumed.
This summary omits picturesque details found in some versions. These recount that, when her father discovered that she was a Christian, he wanted to kill her, but her prayers created an opening in the tower wall and she escaped. Pursued by her father and guards, she hid in a gorge in the mountains. She stayed hidden here until a shepherd betrayed her. As legend has it, the shepherd was transformed into a marble statue and his herd into grasshoppers. When tortured, Barbara held true to her 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. According to one version, she died on 4 December 306 in her native Nicomedia, Bithynia, Asia Minor.