Statue of St Barbara installed at Pike River mine entrance

St Barbara

A statue of St Barbara, the patron saint of miners, has been mounted near the portal of the Pike River mine.

It is a gift from Pike River Re-entry Minister Andrew Little.

He presented it on May 3, when re-entry of the mine was planned and then abandoned because of the oxygen levels.

“There has long been a link between Catholicism and mining communities on the West Coast,”  a spokeswoman for Little told Stuff.

“Before he was an MP and was a union leader, Andrew noticed when he visited mines on the Coast that there was always an icon of St Barbara near the entrances.”

The spokeswoman said he had noticed that many non-religious miners would acknowledge the icon at the start of their shifts.

“So it’s a symbol of good fortune without necessarily any religious connotations in those communities.”

In the aftermath of the disaster, Andrew noticed St Barbara was absent at Pike,” she said.

“It’s a small thought that stuck with him.”

Little bought the small resin statue, which was made in the Dominican Republic, online and with his own money. “Taxpayer funds were not used,” the spokeswoman stressed.

After the group representing the families approved, the icon was passed on to the agency for installation.

It has been mounted near the portal.

Little is an agnostic but was raised in a Catholic family.

“He rarely attends church, but enjoys the singing when he does.”

Who was St Barbara?

St Barbara (died c. 200 CE; feast day 4 December) was a legendary virgin martyr of the early church. She is venerated as one of the 14 Auxiliary Saints (Holy Helpers).

She is invoked in thunderstorms and is the patron saint of miners and artillerymen.

Because Barbara’s authenticity is highly questionable and her legend is probably spurious, she was dropped from the General Roman Calendar in 1969.

According to the legend, which dates only to the 7th century, she was the beautiful daughter of a pagan, Dioscorus, who kept her guarded in a tower to protect her from harm.

When she professed Christianity and refused marriage, he became enraged and took her to the provincial prefect, who ordered her to be tortured and beheaded.

Dioscorus himself performed the execution and, upon his return home, was struck by lightning and reduced to ashes.


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