On December 4 Rieti is celebrating to honour its patron Santa Barbara, one of the most loved saints not only by the church of the West and from the East but throughout history, and it is shrouded in mystery.
The streets of Rieti are filled with stalls, which are an opportunity to start shopping for Christmas gifts and to taste the best local products.
The religious celebrations include a solemn mass with a procession accompanied by the band. Besides these religious events, concerts, awards and cultural events are organized.
Santa Barbara was a very popular saint in the Middle Ages because her history was reported in the book Legenda Aurea that told in detail the life and legends around some saints.
The legend around Santa Barbara tells that she was a girl of particular beauty and her father decided to lock her up in a tower. Before entering Santa Barbara plunged into a tub and baptized herself. When the father discovered this conversion, he took her to a magistrate who tried to make her abjure. At her refusal the girl was tortured and the executioners tried in vain to set her on fire.
In the end it was her own father who killed her by beheading her with a friend named Giuliana. The father was then incinerated by lightning. This story has so many variations that some think that Santa Barbara never existed, but its fame was so great that in Germany she was venerated as one of the ‘4 great virgins’ together with Dorotea, Caterina of Alexandria and Margherita of Antioch.
Because of the way her father died, Santa Barbara is the patron saint of firefighters, navy, bombers, artillerymen, engineers, miners and architects. She is so beloved that the deposits of gunpowder are still called ‘santebarbare’.