This silver-gilt chape (protective cap for a belt-end) bears a cast-relief figure of St Barbara.
However, perhaps the finest depiction of St Barbara in the Museum of London collections is on a small belt-chape or belt-end (a protective metal covering for the end of a leather belt). It is on display in the Medieval London Gallery as it also depicts the symbols of Henry VIII and Katherine of Aragon, a rose and a pomegranate. The Barbara figure on it is minute but holds a palm and tower and is worked in wonderful detail in silver gilt. This object is of a higher status than the other Barbara items in the collection and belonged to Ralph Felmingham, a Sergeant-at-arms to Henry VIII.
So what of St Barbara today? In 1969, due to the uncertainty
surrounding the details of her life she was removed from the Catholic Church’s
General Roman Calendar, although she remains on the Catholic Church’s list of
saints. In certain parts of the world
she is still extremely popular as a saint, particularly in Poland, Germany and
Austria, where her saint’s day, 4th December, is still celebrated,
particularly among communities with a strong mining tradition. She also
remains an important saint for the Eastern Orthodox Church and her saint’s day
is celebrated in many places in Greece, Lebanon and elsewhere in the eastern
Relics of St Barbara can be found chiefly in Kiev, but also in
Venice and the United States. Those in Kiev were brought there from Constantinople
in the 12th century. The Spanish and Portuguese brought her
veneration with them to the Americas in the 16th and 17th
centuries, most notably with the naming of Santa Barbara in California, and she
has been integrated into Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian religions, again
associated with storms and fire.