Saint Florian, the Patron Saint of Firefighters.
Saint Florian has popular devotion in many parts of central Europe, near the area of his martyrdom, not far from the spot where the Enns flows into the Danube. Many miracles of healing are attributed to his intercession and he is invoked as a powerful protector in danger from fire, and floods and against drowning. In addition to the patron saint of firefighters, he is also known as the patron of Austria, Poland, chimney sweeps, brewers and soap boilers. His feast day is May 4th.
Florian, born in Austria about 250 A.D., was an officer of the Roman army, but was also a Christian in anti-Christian times. Although recognized as a leader capable of handling heavy responsibilities, he suffered “death for the Faith” in the days of the Diocletian Emperor through disobeying orders concerning the Christians in his area of command. Those orders included burning Christian churches and books, ending Christian employment, imprisonment of Christians, and finally sacrificing them to the Roman gods.
Sentenced to death by fire, Florian is reputed to have challenged the Roman soldiers “I will climb to heaven on the flames.” The fearful Romans chose instead that he be flogged and flayed then thrown into the river Enns with a stone tied around his neck.
Sometime between 900 and 955, a monastery was erected near Florian’s tomb, and subsequently the village of Saint Florian grew up around it. Saint Florian was officially adopted as patron saint of Poland by Pope Lucius III in 1138. Legend has it that a Polish firefighter invoked Saint Florian’s name in saving someone from a fire. Since then, Florian has been invoked against fire and has generally been regarded in most countries as the patron saint of the fire service.
A perhaps mythological incident is attributed to Saint Florian in which he miraculously stopped a fire with a single pitcher of water. Many other miracles of healing are attributed to his intercession.
As a powerful symbol for firefighting, Saint Florian’s likeness is used in a stock die developed by Northwest Territorial Mint, depicting Saint Florian pouring a pitcher of water on a fire, one of many of their stock die collection that can be used with no die fee to the customer.