December 4th is celebrated as the Feast of St. Barbara in Poland. She is the patron saint of stone, coal, metal and salt miners miners throughout the country.
Celebration of Feast of St. Barbara in Wieliczka salt mine 2023.
In the Wieliczka salt mine in Kraków, listed by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) as one of the most remarkable sites in the world, her feast day is celebrated by miners with a mass in the chapel of St. Kinga. Prayers to her begin with "St. Barbara, patroness of the brotherhood of miners, protect us on the ground and under the ground...". Her image can frequently be found near mines along the Carpathians where the extraction of metals and ore has been a tradition since the 15th century.
Not as well known is the fact that St. Barbara is patron saint to fishermen and anyone who worked on rivers or plied the sea. In olden times in Mazowsze her image could be found on the masthead of boats and barges and no sailor or deckhand would leave land without her image on their person. During the reign of Augustus the II in the 17th century, in the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Warsaw, fishermen and their entire families attended masses in the morning and evening of her feast day and brought fish that was to be distributed to the poor. Because of her close association with water her image also appears in numerous churches and roadside chapels and shrines in the Pomorze (Pomerania) district along the Baltic Sea coast.
In church statues, roadside shrines and paintings, St. Barbara may be depicted in a variety of ways; carrying the sacramental cup and host; a tower, in which she was confined before her beheading; a sword, the instrument of her death and holding a green palm.
This roadside shrine, established at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries and located on the road from Czarnej Dunajec to Nowy Targ, depicts St. Barbara holding a chalice and host, which according to legend an angel was to have brought her communion while confined to the tower; a sword that was used to behead her for refusing to deny her faith; and the tower of her imprisonment behind her.
Excerpted from Spirit of Place: The Roadside Shrines of Poland. Hippocrene Books, Inc.
Photo of miners at Wieliczka from
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.