St. Barbara, Patron of Archery and Firearms and Artillery

Ghirlandaio has a very demure picture of St. Barbara holding her tower. Then you notice she’s standing on a corpse.

Yeah, she’s doing her military saint gig.

Legend has it that God smote down her pagan father with lightning for imprisoning and martyring her. Thus her work as patron of artillerymen, et al. Later versions of the legend often reinterpret pagan as paynim, making Barbara’s dad look Muslim by giving him a Persian-looking helmet. Ghirlandaio uses such an Eastern helmet here, also.

Another popular one was depicting her holding a chalice with the Host suspended over it. Much more peaceful.

But be sure to check out this huge wallpainting of Stories of St. Barbara by Lorenzo Lotto. Holy cow, look at that beautiful marketplace! You could go there tomorrow and recognize people! Also, it is not everyday, outside of a comic book, where you see scenes of the watching cloud of witnesses shooting out of someone’s hand.

UPDATE: However, she’s not just for pre-moderns and Catholics. Behold, the American military honor society, the Order of Saint Barbara, which has its own medallion and everything. Also, there’s the Order of Saint Maurice for infantry guys, the Order of Saint Martin for quartermasters, the Saint George Award for tankers and the Order of Saint Joan d’Arc for their spouses…. Awesome stuff I’d never heard about!

Also, loukoumades (honey puffs – you’ve probably had them at Greek restaurants) are served on her feastday in Greece by the artillery guys, under the theory that they look like cannonballs.


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7 responses to “St. Barbara, Patron of Archery and Firearms and Artillery

  1. Hm, do you know of any modern-ish style artwork that has a really tough looking angel in it?
    (Modern-ish meaning “painted to look more like a photo,” not “um, this yellow square is his head, and the triangle and rectangles here are his eyes” type modern….)

  2. I guess anime angels with guns are not what you want. I mean, the guns are tough-looking but the angels are usually very bishy and big-eyed. 🙂

    I don’t really know. I know swords are cool (and automatically add sales, when they appear on bookcovers). But other than pictures of angels with gonnes, and a rather nice if nationalistic icon of a supposed Russian martyr of the Chechen wars with his uniform and AK, I don’t know that I’ve seen much in the way of modern angels.

    Unless you mean tough modern angels with or without weaponry? (I need to go to sleep.) Hm. Again, not much. People who want to draw heroic brawny tough angels usually also can’t draw very well. The ones that can draw, I usually don’t like their style. (Yes, I’m picky.)

    So unless there’s something out there from somebody like Frank Frazetta or Boris Vallejo or Michael Whelan, or some heavy metal album cover, I suppose….

    (searching) No Frazetta. But among the nekkid Vallejo winged females, there’s a pretty good male angel in jeans, called “Angel of the City”. Vallejo (aka Mr. Skin Tone) is certainly modern but certainly realistic in his treatment. Vallejo went through a whole angel period, it seems, so you’re likely to find some other tough-looking angels (like “Angel’s Freedom”). They’re not really meant as sacred art, though.

    But of course he’ll gladly sell you as many prints as you want, through his webstore. 🙂

  3. Oh, I should have looked at Donato Giancola first. This practically _is_ a devotional image of a guardian angel.

  4. I know what you mean about a lot of the angels not being drawn very well– I’m trying to collect a “to buy” file of pictures and posters for when my husband and I get a house. (Hehe, now I’m going to have to look for Bishie angels, too– perfect for geek kiddos!)

    Thanks for the great image! That’s just the kind of stuff I meant– THAT angel isn’t taking any crud from some monster under the bed!

  5. Noah D

    “a rather nice if nationalistic icon of a supposed Russian martyr of the Chechen wars with his uniform and AK”

    Ooooh, link?

    Thanks for what you’ve found – the ‘we can’t have nice things’ posts struck quite a chord with me.

  6. Maureen

    The soldier’s name is: Evgeniy Aleksandrovich Rodionov.
    (You may also see that name spelled Yevgeny, etc.)

    I thought for sure that Russian popular interest/devotion would have died down by now, but his story really seems to have hit a chord instead. There are apparently icons of him for pretty much every Russian political position, from putting him next to the last Czar and family or dressing him up as a knight, to the aforementioned AK icon. I’m just glad the devoted raised money to buy back his mother her apartment, which she sold to raise the money to ransom his body back.

    Wikipedia tells the basics, but the more emotional story is in the articles:

    If you use his Russian name as an image search term, you’ll find a lot of pictures. The one I saw was with a news article and was very camo-guy on gold background. Here’s another style of icon, from some kind of army page:

    Teensy little gun, lots of Eastern details. 🙂

  7. rev

    Eugen Rodionov beg God about us !!! That can say (to comment) Russia a mind not to understand (if you are not Russian) … Who does give 100% if a mother Evgeniya found these money, that he will be returned? Even for a body lost took 2 milionna roubles and for a head separately … Whew that are people which the World holds on to (Tsar’s monogynopaedium, Sainted otcy, Martyrs etc) . On the account of clothes 🙂 Russians (writers of icons) depict so Sainted represent their reward in to Paradise for their devotion to Faith and homeland .And voobschem honour to on more detailed on the site of and voobschem the Russian runet about the Russian Orthodox church and about its Saints .

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