SAINT BARBARA - Patron Saint Of Gunners: A very popular saint in the Middle Ages, though it appears that she and her legends are wholly mythical. She is regarded as the patron saint of artillerymen and the chapel in HMS EXCELLENT Royal Navy (United Kingdom - Gunnery School at Portsmouth) is dedicated to her.

The legend associating St Barbara with artillerymen says that her father was a chemist of the town of Hippo in North Africa who had learned the secret of gunpowder when travelling in the East; when Hippo was besieged by the Vandals in AD 430, she made bombards and other weapons. On his death, his daughter Barbara - who alone knew the secrets - left the convent where she was a novice and continued her father's work making explosives. When the town fell, Barbara blew up the convent and all its occupants rather than let them fall into the hands of the Vandals.

Another legend has it that she was the very beautiful daughter (Christian) of a heathen Greek. Her father shut her up in a tower when he had to go away on a journey. Barbara had three windows cut in the bathroom of the tower, instead of the two her father had ordered. On his return this, together with her attempts to convert him to Christianity, infuriated him and he killed her with his sword. A flash of lightning devoured him forthwith and also the local Chief Magistrate who had connived at her death. For this reason, Barbara is invoked against lightning and fire and she is the patron saint of artillerymen.

The Catholic Church Description is a little different..



Beautiful maiden imprisoned in a high tower by her father Dioscorus for disobedience. While there, she was tutored by philosphers, orators and poets. From them she learned to think, and decided that polytheism was nonsense. With the help of Origen and Valentinian, she converted to Christianity.

Her father denounced her to the local authorities for her faith, and they ordered him to kill her. She escaped, but he caught her, dragged her home by her hair, tortured her, and killed her. He was immediately struck by lightning, or according to some sources, fire from heaven.

Her imprisonment led to her association with towers, then the construction and maintenance of them, then to their military uses. The lightning that avenged her murder led to asking her protection against fire and lightning, and her patronage of firefighters, etc. Her association with things military and with death that falls from the sky led to her patronage of all things related to artillery, and her image graced powder magazines and arsenals for years. One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

While there were undoubtedly beautiful converts named Barbara, this saint is legend, and her cultus developed when pious fiction was mistaken for history.


Beheaded by her father c.235 at Nicomedia during the persecution of Maximinus of Thrace; relics at Burano, Italy, and Kiev, Russia.

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