About St Florian
The last and most severe of the persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire was that of the Roman Emperor Diocletian which began in 303AD and lasted until 313AD. From this time many stories of martyrs faithful to Jesus Christ have come down through the tradition of the Church. Among these stories are those of St. Florian, soldier, firefighter, and martyr.
Our general impression from the monuments that survive was that Roman cities were built of marble and concrete. This may have been true in the central part of cities with their public buildings and villas, but the major part of the cities, particularly the slums, were all made of wood. In a Roman city there would be multiple incidents of fire every day and daily vigilance was necessary. The fire brigades would be divided into companies of about 50 men and stationed throughout the city. Their responsibilities would include constant patrol throughout the city to watch for small fires that could be more easily contained. When a fire was found, the brigades organized bucket lines from the nearest public fountain to carry the water to the blaze. The work was dangerous and hard, especially if the fire was on the upper floor of the rickety wooden tenements that could be three to six stories high.
St. Florian was a respected Roman army officer whose responsibilities included commanding a fire brigade. He was undoubtedly highly respected by the authorities as he advanced in grade.
However, when the Diocletian’s persecution began, Florian’s Christian faith brought him before his fellow soldiers to be judged. He would not denounce his faith, therefore the decision was to burn him at the stake. Florian apparently spoke about being consumed by fire as a positive way for him to enter into heaven. So the soldiers instead tortured him in other ways, including ripping the skin off his body. Finally the soldiers looped a rope around Florian’s neck and pitched him into the River Ennis where he drowned.
Florian’s body was recovered and buried by a faithful Christian lady. Later his remains were taken to the Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian near the present day city of Linz, Austria.
In 1138 King Casmir of Poland and the Bishop of Cracow requested that some of St. Florian’s relics be taken to the city of Cracow. Since that time St. Florian has been considered a patron saint of Poland, along with his patronage of the city of Linz. There were many miracles reported through his intercession.
In his iconography, St. Florian is pictured in the uniform of a Roman officer holding a picture of water dousing flames. Other images show him wearing a rope attached to a massive stone wheel to indicate how he was martyred.
St. Florian is the patron of firefighters, and of those who fear death by water. His feast day is May 4th.
More About Saint Florian
As a commander in the Roman army, St. Florian was expected to follow the orders of the emperor. However, St. Florian understood that although obedience to superiors on earth can be honorable, as a Christian his allegiance was to Jesus Christ. When told to choose one or the other, St. Florian willingly gave his life in the name of his love for God, knowing that nothing on earth could compare to the glory of heaven.
St. Florian was born around 250 AD in the ancient Roman city of Aelium Cetiumin (present-day Sankt Polten, Austria). He joined the Roman army and moved his way up the ranks to become a commander. In addition to this, he was responsible for the fire brigade in the area. He organized a group of trained soldiers whose sole responsibility was fighting fires.
Under the rule of Emperor Diocletian, Christianity was severely persecuted. Many Christians were forced to choose between renouncing their faith or being martyred. It was at this time that St. Florian was in the army, and as a commander, was responsible for condemning and eliminating Christianity in his area. As a Christian himself, St. Florian would not take part in these horrible acts. Emperor Diocletian sent someone to investigate reports that St. Florian was not enforcing his rules. As a test, St. Florian was asked to offer sacrifice to the pagan gods. He refused, thus confirming his Christian beliefs and sentencing him to death.
St. Florian was told he would be burned alive for his Christianity. He responded that he would climb the flames of the funeral pyre to heaven. This statement irritated the Roman soldiers who were to put him to death, and they decided to make St. Florian’s death even more miserable. First they flogged him, then they flayed him. Still alive, they tied a large stone around his neck and threw him into the Ennis River to drown.
A Christian woman named Valeria recovered his body and gave him a proper burial. His remains were later moved to the Augustinian Abbey (of St. Florian) in modern-day Linz, Austria. In the 12th century, King Casimir of Poland asked of Pope Lucius III that the remains of St. Florian be sent to him. St. Florian was consequently named the patron saint of Poland. Some of his relics still remain in Krakow, Poland today.
Patronage of St. Florian
St. Florian is the patron saint of firefighters, protection from fire, chimneysweeps, against drowning, and against water damage, as well as Linz, Austria and the country of Poland. St. Florian is most widely known as the patron saint of firefighters, though, throughout the world. In Europe, the name Florian has become synonymous with fighting fires. In Austria and Germany, fire services use the word “Florian” in radio communications to transmit the need for fire stations to respond with firetrucks. Also, the “Florian Cross,” (which was used by St. Florian), is the shape used to create the badge worn by firefighters.
St. Florian in Art
In artwork, St. Florian is depicted wearing the uniform of a Roman soldier. He often is holding a pitcher of water, pouring it over a fire. He also may be holding the flag of the Crusades, thus indicating his Christian faith.
St. Florian Devotional Items
People, particularly firefighters or their families have a devotion to St. Florian. These typically take the form of a Florian medal or a St. Florian Rosary.
Prayers of St. Florian
Prayer to St. Florian
Dear God, through the intercession of our patron, Saint Florian, have mercy on the souls of our comrades who have made the supreme sacrifice in the performance of their duty, and on all who have gone before us after years of faithful discharge of their responsibilities which now rest on ourselves. Give us Grace to prepare each day for our own summons to Thy tribunal of justice. Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. Withersoever Thou callest me, I am ready to go. Merciful Father of all men, save my from all bodily harm, if it be Thy will, but above all, help me to be loyal and true, respectful and honorable, obedient and valiant. Thus fortified by virtue, I shall have no fear, for I shall then belong to Thee and shall never be separated from Thee. Amen.
Prayer of Protection for Firefighters and Paramedics
Heavenly Father, I pray for the firefighters and paramedics of our nation. Thank You for their courage, dedication, and commitment in serving all of the United States. I thank You for their bravery and willingness to sacrifice their own well-being and many times risk their own lives in the service of others.
I pray for their protection. Keep them safe from harm and injury. Give them Your wisdom and guidance when faced with crucial decisions. Encourage and strengthen them mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Help them to overcome the stress and hardships that accompany their occupation.
May Your blessings be upon their homes and families. Give their families peace, comfort, courage and strength to cope with the sacrifices that are required.
I pray people everywhere would take time to pray for and personally give a word of encouragement and support to the rescue workers of their community.
God, bless the rescue workers of America. Amen.
Prayer for Firefighters
Almighty God, protector of all, Your strength, power, and wisdom are a beacon of light to all: Give special guidance to firefighters so that they may be protected from harm while performing their duty.
Help them with Your loving care while they work to save the lives and property of all people, young and old. Give them the courage, the alertness to protect our neighbors and all others whom they are pledged to aid when involved in fire or accident. Amen.
A Firefighter’s Prayer
When I am called to duty, God, wherever flames may rage, give me the strength to save some life, whatever be its age. Help me embrace a little child, before it is too late, or save an older person from the horror of that fate. Enable me to be alert to hear the weakest shout, and quickly and efficiently to put the fire out. I want to fill my calling, and to give the best in me, to guard my every neighbor and protect his property. And if according to my fate, l am to lose my life, please bless with your protecting hand, my children and my spouse.