04 May 2012

4 May - Saint Florian

On this day in 1891, while grappling with “the Napoleon of crime” Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes fell off the mountain ledge with his enemy into Reichenbach Falls.  Dr. Watson’s account was published in the December 1893 issue of the Strand magazine.


At Lorch, in  Austria, under the emperor Diocletian and the governor Aquilinus, the martyr St. Florian, who was  precipitated into the river Enns, with a stone tied  to his neck.

Today is the feast of St. Florian or Florianus, martyr.  Tradition says that he was a Roman commander stationed in the military camp at Lauriacum (modern Lorch/Enns in Austria) where he confessed his faith in Christ and was tortured before being tossed into the Enns river with a millstone around his neck.  Further traditions explain his association with fire: that he was the leader of the soldier’s fire brigade, or that he refused to burn the houses and churches of Christians, or that he put out a house-fire by pouring a jug of water on it, or that when condemned to be burnt alive, he replied that he would climb to heaven on the flames.   The holy-card image here shows his usual attributes: an angel pours the jug of water on the conflagration, while Florian – in uniform with cross in hand – watches, the millstone of his martyrdom behind him.

“St. Florian was a soldier and sufferer in the time of the Emperors Diocletian and Maximinian. He perished in the tenth and last persecution of the Christian Church by the Romans. The judge, who condemned him to death, was Aquilinus. After being importuned to renounce the Christian religion, and to embrace the Pagan creed, as the only condition of his being rescued from an immediate and cruel death, St. Florian firmly resisted all entreaties; and shewed a calmness, and even joyfulness of spirits, in proportion to the stripes inflicted upon him previous to execution. He was condemned to be thrown into the river, from a bridge, with a stone fastened round his neck. The soldiers at first hesitated about carrying' the judgment of Aquilinus into execution. A pause of an hour ensued: which was employed by St. Florian in prayer.  A furious young man then rushed forward, and precipitated the martyr into the river: " Fluvius autem suscipiens martyrem Christi, expavit, et elevatis undis suis, in quodam eminentiori loco in saxo corpus ejus deposuit. Tunc annuente favore divino, adveniens aquila, expansis alis suis in modum crucis, eum protegebat." (Acta Sanctorum; Mens. Mail, vol. i. p. 463).  St. Florian is a popular saint both in Bavaria and Austria. He is usually represented in armor, pouring water from a bucket to extinguish a house, or a city, in flames…"
Thomas F. Dibdin, A bibliographical, antiquarian and picturesque tour in France and Germany, (1829), p. 239-240

     “St. Florian, one of the eight tutelar saints of Austria, was another Roman soldier, who, professing Christianity, was martyred in the reign of Galerius. He was a native of Enns, in Lower Austria, and worked many miracles: among others he is said to have extinguished a conflagration by throwing a pitcherful of water over the flames. A stone was tied round his neck, and he was flung into the river Enns. (May 4.)”
     “St. Florian is rarely met with in Italian Art, but he occurs frequently in the old German prints and pictures; and in Austria and Bohemia we encounter him in almost every town and village, standing, in a sort of half-military, half-ecclesiastical costume, at the corner of a street or in an open space, generally marking the spot on which some destructive fire occurred or was arrested. I have often found his statue on a pump or fountain. He is also painted on the outside of houses, in armor, and in the act of throwing water from a bucket or pitcher on a house in flames.”
Mrs. Jameson, Sacred and Legendary Art (1879), p. 419-420

Of course, Naogeorgus, rolling his eyes about the saints, sneers:
"Saint Agatha defends thy house from fire and fearful flame,
But when it burns, in armor all doth Florian quench the same…"

In honor of St. Florian, today would be a good day to write a note of thanks to your local firemen, or to make a contribution to a local charitable or memorial fund.  Offer your Mass or Rosary for them today.  And don’t forget to pray for them.  I say a simple prayer whenever I see a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or EMT, or when I pass a fire or police station:

“O Lord, be with them.  Give them strength and good judgment.  Protect them.  Saint Michael, Saint Florian, defend them and intercede for them. Amen.”

If you are thinking of putting in a Saints Garden to complement your Mary Garden, why not add a couple of plants for Saint Florian?  Flame-colored flowers, like masses of red, orange, and yellow daylilies, will make a bright spot in the garden.  I love these, known as “Red Hot Poker” or “Fire Dance”, which I found at Wayside Gardens (bonus: they are very hardy, even in the Smallest State, don't need much water, and butterflies are attracted to them).


“O Martyr and Saint, Florian, keep us, we beseech thee, by night and by day, from all harm by Fire or from other casualties of this life."