How Did Santa Barbara Get its Name?
The Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino sailed through the channel between Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands in December of 1602. There was a dense fog during the voyage and when the fog cleared the islands could be seen in the distance. The channel was named Santa Barbara because the ship traveled through this area on St. Barbara’s feast day, December 4th. The town of Santa Barbara was not named until 1782, when the Presidio and Mission (1786) were founded. The original name of the town or area was “La Laguna de Concepcion.” (I have no idea where that name came from.)
Who was St. Barbara?
St. Barbara was a third century figure who was raised by a nobleman and pagan. It is said that she learned about Christianity from her tutors and converted. During the construction of a tower for her father, she had the plans altered so that three windows would allow light into the room – the three lights represented the holy trinity. When her father found out about his daughter’s conversion and the altered construction plans, he was furious. He had his daughter tortured and eventually he beheaded her. After her beheading, God struck down her father with a bolt of lightning. There is some doubt about the historicity of her legend, because of this she was removed from the liturgical calendar of the Roman rite in 1969.
Now let me say, that I am not an historian. So if I have any of my facts mixed up, please do not hesitate to let me know either by email or in the comment section below. Special thanks to Neal Graffy who wrote a wonderful book, Street Names of Santa Barbara. You should check it out.