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Saint Barbara

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Saint Barbara as painted by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio; she stands next to the tower in which she was imprisoned, while storm clouds gather in the background
Saint Barbara as painted by Giovanni Antonio Boltraffio; she stands next to the tower in which she was imprisoned, while storm clouds gather in the background

Saint Barbara, a Virgin Martyr, is the patron saint of firefighters, soldiers, prisoners, stone masons, those who have dangerous professions, construction workers, builders, mathematicians, and the city of Santa Barbara, California. She died by the sword, but her killers were struck down by lightning, so she is often called on for protection from lightning and for protection from violent and unpredictable death. The Feast of Saint Barbara is celebrated on December 4th.

Saint Barbara lived during the late 3rd and early 4th centuries in Asia Minor. Her legend has it that her pagan father kept her locked in a tower, and her iconography generally shows a tower in the background. She admitted to being a Christian and was tortured, then condemned to death. Her father carried out the death sentence by beheading her, but he was miraculously struck by lightning in an act of divine retribution. In addition to the tower, her iconography generally shows her with a palm branch and a chalice. She is one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers.

In Orthodox Christendom, Saint Barbara's Day is celebrated with offerings of barley, pomegranate, raisins, and sugar. In the African Diasporic religion of Cuban Santeria or Lukumi, she is associated with the male orisha Shango (also spelled Chango and Xango) because he, as the deified fourth king of the Yorubas, is associated with thunder and lightning.

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