The Public Safety Net

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Saint Florian
the patron saint of the fire service
St. Florian statue


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Josef Josephu & his sculpture
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In 1935, Josef Josephu a well known sculptor in Vienna, unveiled a statue of St. Florian which stood guard over the main firehouse of Vienna, located in the city's largest square, Am Hof. In 1945 the building was bombed and St. Florian survived, with only a slight damage.
The statue is now that symbol of the Vienna Fire Dept and located at the Fire History Museum:

Wiener Feuerwehrmuseum
Am Hof 9 1010
Wien Austria
Telephone 53 199/444 FAX 53/199/482

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Florian was born in Austria in the 4th century about 250 A.D. in Cetium (Austria). The St. Florian commemorated in the Roman Martyrology on May 4th, was an officer of the Roman army. He joined the Roman Army as a youth, and through hard work and determination... he advanced through the ranks. He advanced in the ranks and occupied a high administrative post in Noricum, now part of Austria. The Emperor Diocletian and his assistant Maximian liked Florian because of his abilities to solve problems and work with people. They saw Florian as a man capable of handling heavy responsibilities. The saint suffered "death for the Faith" in the days of Diocletian. Although he became an officer of the Roman army, he didn't observe a "don't ask, don't tell" policy and confessed to his Christianity in anti-Christian times.

The Emperor sent an assistant named Aquilius to the area controlled by Florian to kill all the Christians in the area, and to find out why Florian was not following orders. When he finally met up with Florian... he asked him why he refused to persecute the Christians to which Florian replied, "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. Florian refused. Aquilius was outraged and had his soldiers beat him with whips, yet Florian stood steadfast. He told Aquilius that he had suffered many wounds for the Emperor - why not a few scratches for his own beliefs? His courage scared Aquilius who feared that Florian would lead others to rebel.

"The Departure of St. Florian"
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Albrecht Altdorfer. The Departure of St. Florian (panel from the St. Florian altar). c.1515. Oil on wood. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy.

It was for these reasons that the Emperor was shocked to learn that Florian was not following his order to punish all Christians in his area. This punishment included burning Christian churches and books, firing all Christians from their jobs, putting them in prison without good reason, and finally forcing them to sacrifice to the Roman gods. Florian did not carry out his orders to persecute all Christians in the area, and, thus, was sentenced to death by fire.

His legendary "Acts" state that he gave himself up at Lorch to the soldiers of Aquilinus, and the governor of Lorch, when they were rounding up the Christians. Standing on the funeral pyre, Florian is reputed to have challenged the Roman soldiers to light the fire, saying "If you do, I will climb to heaven on the flames." Apprehensive to his words, instead of burning Florian, he was flogged and flayed after making the bold confession. Not willing to take a chance, Aquilius decided to drown Florian by tying a giant stone around his neck and throwing him into the river Enns. He was twice scourged, half-flayed alive, set on fire, and finally thrown into the river Enns with a stone around his neck. His body was later recovered by a pious woman, and he was buried honorably.

Because of his stand and resistance to death by fire... St. Florian became the protector of firefighters all over the world.

"The Martyrdom of St. Florian"


Martyrdon of Saint Florian: Albrecht Altdorfer
The Martyrdom of St. Florian (panel from the St. Florian altar). c.1515. Oil on wood.
Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence, Italy.


Stolen painting
St. Florian putting out a fire
The top of the painting is semi-circular in form. On the right, St.
Florian in armour, wearing an ermine stole and an ermine-edged crown
surmounted by a small cross,
is seated on a cloud pouring water on a burning castle.
In the upper left corner there is the Holy Trinity.
There are also some cherubs in the painting.
The painting was cut out of its frame.
  • Author:
    unknown
  • Technique:
    oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:
    180 x 115 cm
  • Painted in:
    17th century
  • Stolen:
    between 2nd and 15th August 1993
  • Location:
    from the castle BORL, Dolane 1, Slovenia

About 600 years later, sometime between 900-955, a monastery was erected near Florian's tomb, and subsequently the village of St. Florian grew up around it. His body, recovered and was eventually removed to the Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian, near Linz. St. Florian was adopted as patron saint of Poland after Pope Lucius III, in 1138, consented to the request of King Casimir of Poland and to the Bishop of Cracow, to send relics of Florian to that country. Since that time, St. Florian has been regarded as a patron of Poland as well as of Linz, Upper Austria and of firemen. Soon after, a person was saved from a fire by invoking St. Florian's name. Since then, Florian has been invoked against fire and has generally been regarded in most countries as the patron saint of the fire service.

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Florian is associated with brewers because of a legendary incident in which he miraculously stopped a fire with a single pitcher of water. He is often depicted holding a pitcher. Florian is also the patron of chimney sweeps, Austria, Poland and soap boilers.

There has been popular devotion to St. Florian in many parts of central Europe, and the tradition as to his martyrdom, not far from the spot where the Enns flows into the Danube, is ancient and reliable. 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. His feast day is May 4th.

More information on the tradition and history of the fire service can be found here: The Maltese Cross.

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