St. Florian of Lorch traveled widely — at least in death. Florian was born in the mid-3rd century in or near modern Vienna. He joined the Roman army and eventually becoming a commander in Lauriacum (now Lorch).
Sometime after, he became a Christian and secretly practiced his faith. In the early 4th century, Diocletian (284-305) started what became the largest persecution of Christians since Nero (54-68). Florian remained silent but, when he heard that 40 Christians, including soldiers, were awaiting execution in the Lorch prison, he acted. Some accounts say he tried to free them, but was captured. Others say he surrendered and was taken to Aquilinius, the governor.
He was given the opportunity to abandon the faith, but refused and was scourged, then flayed. Rather than give him a soldier’s death, by a sword, a millstone was put around his neck and he was thrown into the River Enns near where it enters the Danube. A pious woman recovered his body and buried it.
A chapel was built over the grave and became St. Florian Priory; the Austrian town of Sankt Florian grew up around it. In 700, the bishop of Passau moved the relics to what became St. Florian (Augustinian) Abbey. Later, some of the relics were moved to Rome.
In 1184, Pope Lucius III honored the request of King Casimir of Poland and the archbishop of Krakow and moved some of the relics to that city. A legend says that the ox carrying the relics suddenly stopped and would not move and the relics became so heavy that no one could lift them. That became the spot where they built the Collegiate Church of St. Florian.
Since then, St. Florian has been the patron of both Poland and Upper Austria.
He is also the patron of Bologna, Italy, as well as firefighters, brewers, potters, blacksmiths, coopers and chimney sweeps. His patronage is invoked for protection against fire and water damage, storms, drought and burns.
In art, Florian is portrayed as a young man, sometimes in armor, pouring water from a tub onto a burning church. Sometimes he stands on a burning torch, holding a palm.
Sources: catholic.org; katolsk.no; saintpatrickdc.org; saints.sqpn.com; scborromeo.org; and wikipedia.org.
Staley is a retired editor of The Compass.