Wayside Shrine to Saint Barbara

Grafenbach, Diex, Austria

As in pre-Tridentine iconography, the saint holds a sword and a chalice with the host, and the tower has a set of three windows. The crown is also seen occasionally on the saint's head in the years from about 1400 to 1550. The chalice is topped by a round host, as in all Catholic images of St. Barbara that include the chalice.

The image is of interest because it reproduces precisely the type condemned in 1576 by John Molanus: "To combine the two symbols, some paint the chalice and Host at the door of a tower. This however is to be avoided, especially for those who live a sinful life."1

The laced-up bodice in the image is almost certainly from the 18th or 19th century, and the painting style looks like folk art of that period, long after Molanus' strictures had driven the chalice attribute out of official church art.2

It is possible that the painting was commissioned by a lay guild and modeled on an older Catholic original. Or it could be that the priest in Grafenbach was unaware of or unconcerned about a decree from long ago.

Read more about images of St. Barbara.

Source: this page at Wikimedia Commons.

1See the St. Barbara page for the full quotation and documentation.

2See Wikipedia s.v. "Bodice."