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mining saint


The activities of miners have always been associated with many problems, stresses and dangers. That is why the veneration of special “professional saints” plays a major role in the tradition of the miners.

The outstanding mining saints of the Alpine region are Barbara and Daniel. Both are extraordinarily different in meaning in faith. That's why they complement each other quite well.

Saint Daniel , as one of the most important prophets of the Old Testament, was the most important mining patron of the Middle Ages.

His three-day stay in the lions' den and his visionary abilities soon made him popular with everyone

pit saints.

A legend says that in a dream Daniel was told that there would be treasure in the branches of a tree. Daniel was looking for this nest

with the silver eggs in vain in the treetops. Suddenly an angel appeared to Daniel. This referred him to the subterranean

tangle of the tree where Daniel actually found a rich deposit of silver.

Because of this story, Daniel was recognized by the miners as a discoverer of mining and as a teacher in searching and mining

find worshiped. The importance that Daniel was given is also shown in detail in the early mining textbooks.

These books are already more than 500 years old.

However, with the growth of mining science, the worship of Daniel became less and less important. For the miners of the Age of Enlightenment, there were no longer any higher powers to call upon when searching for and finding deposits.

The decline of  From around 1620, the cult of Daniel gave way to the growing veneration of St. Barbara.

The martyr Barbara was invoked for help in times of threat, need or danger. in the rough

In the male world, she embodied the female element that promised security and mercy.

Two factors determined Barbara's popularity among miners: First, she was the saint against

the sudden death that miners have always faced. In addition, according to legend, a

Berg opened when Barbara fled from her father.

Perhaps even the miners' greeting "Glück Auf" goes back to this event. some think

that "Glück Auf" in the sense of "God, open the gaps!" can be interpreted.

In contrast to the "arch-pointer" Daniel, Barbara was and is above all a "patron saint" against the

dangers in mining.

Despite her popularity, the Vatican removed Barbara from the Roman holiday calendar in 1969.

Only after long, tough negotiations was it reinstated in the German regional calendar in 1972.

40 years ago, that would have almost meant the end of the Barbara celebrations that are so popular today.



Interestingly, in addition to these two main saints, there were several dozen other mining saints.                                                                                                                                                         

These can be divided into four groups:

  • metal saints

  • water saint

  • fire saint

  • Saints with special tasks


Anna is considered the classic metal saint. As the mother of Mary, Anna was seen as the donator of the silver. Many places where silver was found and mined are therefore still called Annaberg today.


As a prisoner, Saint Leonhard had to carry a heavy iron chain. That is why he is revered by the iron miners and journeyman blacksmiths.

Miners were constantly threatened by flooding in their underground work. St. Christopher , bathed in water, granted appropriate protection.

As a fire saint, Saint Florian was also of great importance in mining. In earlier times, the rock was often mined by means of bonfires. Fires heated the mountains, which could then be mined more easily with mallets and irons. The occurring gases however frequently lead to serious poisoning of the miners.

Saint Laurentius had to endure a particularly difficult fate. He was executed as a martyr on a red-hot gridiron. This impressed the smelters so much that they still celebrate him as their patron saint.

Now for the mining saints with special tasks.

Such was the apostle Andrew . In particular, he was regarded as the protector of the mine entrances. Its attribute, the St. Andrew's cross made of two diagonally crossed sticks of wood, can still be found today as a barrier in front of old tunnels and routes as well as in front of level crossings.

Saint Briccius was considered a protector from avalanches. He died in an avalanche on his way back from Byzantium with an ampoule of holy blood. As the name suggests, this event happened in Heiligenblut in Carinthia. Since the old gold mines in the Tauern were operated at more than 3000 m above sea level, avalanches were a constant danger.

Finally, the story of a saint with a rather strange area of responsibility, namely that of Saint Vitus or Vitus. Vitus also died as a martyr in torment in a cauldron filled with boiling oil.

As a mining saint, Vitus had to ensure that the miners did not oversleep their shift work. Presumably some trades wished their bruising squires the torments of Vitus!!!

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