Today is the feast day of Saint Florian. Ora pro nobis.
Saint Florian was born in the mid-third century A.D., perhaps around the year 250,somewhere around current-day Austria. While little is known of his life other than his heroic exploits in the Army, it is clear that be 284, Saint Florian had converted to the Christian faith. Of course, this was a most dangerous thing to do, as during the reign of Decius, great persecution of Christians was occurring.
Despite being a firefighter, Florian and his guard were ordered to burn Christian churches, books, and homes of Christians. Florian refused, and a high-ranking official, Aquilius, was dispatched to investigate. Upon inquiry regarding his refusal to execute Christians, Florian stated, “Tell the Emperor that I am a Christian and will suffer the same fate as the Christians.” Aquilius then offered him a raise and promotion if he would change his mind, which Florian refused, outraging Aquilius. Florian was initially whipped, as incentive to renounce his faith and offer sacrifice to the Roman gods. He told Aquilius that he had “suffered many wounds for the Emperor” and therefore, why should he “fear a few scratches for his own beliefs?” His courage scared Aquilius who feared that Florian would lead others to rebel.
The popular method of disposing of Christians in that day was to burn them to death, and it was suggested that Florian suffer the same fate.
He, however, stated his intention to “climb to Heaven on the flames” of the funeral pyre being prepared for him. The soldiers decided at that point to dispense with him via another route: he was flogged, then flayed, then a large stone was tied around his neck and he was thrown into the Ennis River to drown.
A faithful lady recovered and buried his body, which was later moved to the Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian, near current-day Linz, Austria. In 1138 some of St. Florian’s relics were given to King Casimir of Poland and the Bishop of Cracow. Since his relics arrived in Poland, he has been regarded as the patron saint of that country. Because of his association with fire, St. Florian is the patron saint of firefighters and chimney sweeps and has been invoked for protection from both fire and water. A statue of St. Florian installed at the front of the main firehouse in Vienna, Austria survived a 1945 bombing with barely a scratch. (3,4)
Many legendary acts are reported of Saint Florian. He is once said to have saved a town from burning by throwing a single bucket or pitcher of water on the blaze, which is how he is often depicted in art, with an angel accompanying him. Saint Florian is invoked as a powerful protector from dangers from fire, floods and drowning. Saint Florian is the patron saint of firefighters, chimney sweeps, coopers, barrel-makers, brewers, soap boilers and Austria. He is invoked against battles, fires, drowning, floods and for fire protection and harvests. (2)
Image: Saint Florian. Coloured engraving by F. Nowohradsky. (4)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff