Barbara celebration – tradition in the tunnel
Barbara celebration – tradition in the tunnel

Barbara celebration – tradition in the tunnel

Saint Barbara is the patron saint of miners. The cele­bra­tion of Barbara takes place on 4 December, her name day, at under­ground mines all across the world. It is, of course, also celebrated at the Marti Group’s tunnel con­struction sites.

It is a chilly winter morning on December 4, 2022. A peace­ful Sunday atmo­sphere hangs over the in­stallation site of ARGE Marti RBS Lot 1.3 on Laupen­strasse in Bern. The con­struction site elevator moves us down the shaft to an adit, located 12 meters below the existing rail tracks of Bern station. After a short walk, the tunnel starts expanding. This is where the two station caverns for the new RBS station are being constructed. Today there is a reverent silence where machines are ordinarily rumbling. The daily dust has settled. The miners are now clad in casual attire instead of their pro­fessional orange uniforms. The mood is festive. After all, today is St. Barbara’s name day, the patron saint of miners. Under­ground miners tradition­ally offer their thanks on this day with a church service for a mining year that ended with as few accidents as possible. And pray for continued pro­tection over the coming year. After­wards, they finish this commemor­ative day with a good-natured communal meal.

We thank our patron saint for her faithful watch. She protects us from unknown and unexpected dangers during our daily work in the caverns.
Thomas Heid,
Construction site manager, Marti Tunnel AG


Numerous stories and legends recount the life of St. Barbara. By most accounts, she lived in Nicodemia, now Izmir, Turkey, in the third century. Dioskuros, her strict and jealous father, kept her im­prisoned in a tower, shielding her from the out­side world. While Dioskuros was away traveling, Barbara found Christianity and com­missioned a third window to be in­stalled in her tower, as a symbol of the Trinity. Her father learned about her con­version and became furious. As she tried to flee from his wrath, a crack in the rock opened up for Barbara and gave her shelter. However, a shepherd boy be­trayed her hiding place and she was captured. Her father then viciously executed her. Immediately after­wards, he was struck by lightning and burned to death.

History only attests to the giving of thanks to St. Barbara as a martyr. She has been the patron saint of miners for centuries, providing them with protection and blessings. By hiding in the crevice of the mountain, she is in­extricably linked with the world of mining. Even in modern times, she is there­fore still omni­present in tunnel con­struction. A statue of the patron saint is blessed when each underground con­struction is opened. After­wards, the statue watches over them in a specially pre­pared niche to make sure that every­one comes out of the mountain healthy and in one piece.

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