Santa Barbara watches over tunnellers

TunnelTalk reporting

For so many projects around the world, December 4 is a special day of veneration to Santa Barbara as the patron saint of tunnellers and miners and all who work and visit underground construction environments.

Santa Barbara, patron saint of tunnellers
Santa Barbara, patron saint of tunnellers

Santa Barbara is also patron saint of armourers, artillerymen and military engineers and others who work with explosives due to her association in legend with lightning.

According to the legend, Barbara lived in the third century near Istanbul, Turkey, and was the only daughter of Dioscuros, a high-ranking and wealthy man who sought to protect her from foreign influences by confining her in a sumptuously furnished tower. She eventually escaped but was denounced by her father to the authorities. According to later versions of the legend, Barbara took refuge with the silver miners of Laurium in Greece but was intercepted by her persecutors and, on leaving a mine shaft, was decapitated by her own father who was struck dead by a bolt of lightning as punishment for his monstrous crime.

As a long-standing tradition, one of the first tasks for each new tunnelling projects is to establish a small shrine to Santa Barbara at the tunnel portal or at the underground junction into long tunnel headings. This is often followed with a dedication and an invocation to Santa Barbara for protection of all who work on the project during the construction period.

The following are photos of the Santa Barbara shrines photographed by TunnelTalk on its visits to tunnelling projects through the years and in different parts of the world and as published on TunnelTalk to date. On some projects the tradition is extended to adopt the protection of local gods and goddesses.

Send us a photo ContactUs@TunnelTalk.com your project’s Santa Barbara shrine, or shrine to other local gods and goddesses, and we will add it to our Santa Barbara gallery. Send us the name of the project and the construction period and the gallery will become a record of the projects over which spiritual and traditional protection has been invoked.

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