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Saint Barbara

Saint Barbara is the patron of the Italian Navy. According to the legend, St. Barbara was the beautiful daughter of a wealthy heathen named Dioscorus, who lived near Nicomedia in Asia Minor. Because of her beauty, and fearful that she might be proposed in marriage and taken away from him, he jealously shut her up in a tower to protect her from the outside world where she . gradually embraced the Christian faith.

Upon his return, her father was wild with rage and drew his sword to kill her. St. Barbara fell on her knees in prayer and was miraculously transported to a mountain. Here she was found by a shepherd who betrayed her to Dioscorus.

She was dragged before Marcian, the prefect of the province, who decreed that she be tortured and put to death by beheading. Dioscorus himself carried out the death sentence. On his way home, he was struck by lightning and his body consumed.  Because of this legend, St. Barbara is invoked against tempest and lightning, as well as explosions of firearms and gunpowder. She is also the patron of artillery and mining. Her feast is celebrated on December 4.

The Italian word santabarbara, and the obsolete French sainte-barbe mean the powder magazine of a ship or fortress; for this reason it was customary to have a statue of Saint Barbara at the magazine to protect the ship or fortress from suddenly exploding.