The Patron Saint
of Artillerymen

Virgin martyr of dubious authenticity, said to have died during the reign of Emperor Maximian about the turn of the 4th century. The earliest account of her life dates from the 7th century, and Nicomedia, (modern Izmit), Heliopolis, (modern Baalbek) and Rome were all claimed as the site of her martyrdom. To prevent her from marrying, her father had a tower built, and there she spent her youth in solitude. While confined, she was converted to Christianity against the will of her father, who then delivered her to the Roman governor.

When she failed to relinquish Christianity under torture, she was condemed to death. Because her father brought her to her fate the governor ordered him to be her executioner. Her father took her to the top of a mountain and cut off her head. When he had beheaded her, the father was struck by lightning and killed. Because of that event, Saint Barbara has been associated with lightning and is prayed to during storms. Barbara came to be regarded as the patroness of those in danger from thunderstorms, fire and explosions. Early artillerymen sought her protection because of the questionable reliability of early cannon. Today Saint Barbara is known throughout the military as the patron saint of artillerymen, and her image was at one time placed frequently on arsenals and powder magazines; the powder storage room of a French warship is still called Sainte-Barbe.