101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Sunday, May 3

Sunday Fun - Saint Florian


Those who know me know I'm not terribly religious, but I do admire the Catholic faith in their variety of Patroned Saints.

Saint Florian, as many of you know, is the Patroned Saint of those in Danger of Fire as well as chimney sweeps and brewers. I always thought that was odd. One saint for brewers and firefighters, it just fits.

On the job these days folks seem to not have an understanding of the history of Saint Florian or the Maltese Cross they wear on their T-shirts.
Few seem to recognize the tradition and lessons that can be learned from these 2 symbols of what we do.

This week, a bit of a reminder about that figure with the armor, bucket and flag, Saint Florian.

At the time of Florian, circa 250-300 AD, Emperor Decius continued in the tradition put in place before him of assigning night watchmen to patrol the streets of Rome. This nightwatch arrested drunks, broke up fights and watched for untended or out of control fires. In the event of a fire the mostly slave brigade didn't seem to try too hard to stop the fires destroying the homes of their masters.

The actual fire fighters were members of the Equestrian Order (Ordo Equesto). They were the lower of the highest two classes in Rome, below only the Senatorial Class. These men were charged with ensuring buckets and hooks were available and that slaves turned out to fight the fires.
By the time Florian joined up, the slaves were nearly out of the picture and the first professionally organized fire service was being formed from these trained and respected men.

There were an estimated 7000 men assigned to such tasks around the time of Florian, all military men. They were distinguished from active duty soldiers by their tunics and capes. Soldiers wore red, the ancient firefighters wore green. That is why Florian appears in paintings in a green tunic instead of the more commonly seen Roman red.

Legend states that Florian doused an entire village on fire with only one bucket of water. Possibly the first firefighter to use my mantra, "Big fire, smart water."

Since they were in the military, they had the opportunity to advance through the ranks and Florian did just that, making the rank of General and being assigned his own Governorship in the region of Noricum on the Austrian border.

It was here his religious views and those of Rome clashed and events occurred ending in Florian's arrest and torture before being burned to death. It is said that Florian told the Roman soldiers to make his funeral pyre bigger so the smoke would take him directly to Heaven.

His body was later found in a river, guarded by an eagle, and given a Christian burial.

In the end, Florian's image adorns T-shirts, medallions, plaques and other trinkets, but what does it really represent?
To me it represents professionalism and dedication to task. These men were the upper crust of society who chose to take part in a difficult and dangerous task, fighting fire in ancient times.
And although I am not a religious person, I take the image of Saint Florian with me both scribed on my turnout coat and behind my helmet shield.

And just in time, Saint Florian is celebrated with a feast day each year on May 4th. So lift a glass of your chosen libation and toast to those who came before us, to their sacrifices and their service, repeating the rhyme:

Heiliger Sankt Florian
Verschon mein Haus
Zünd andre an!

Oh Saint Florian,
save my home,
kinkle someone elses!

4 comments:

Medix311 said...

Thanks for the history lesson :)

medicblog999 said...

Well, there's something I've learned today whilst sitting on standby at the side of the road!!

Joel said...

Always wondered what St Florian's role was in Firefighting. Thanks for the history lesson!

Little Girl said...

Thank you for the history lesson!!