Meet St. Florian, Patron Saint of Firefighters

Meet St. Florian, Patron Saint of Firefighters

Published Apr 16, 2021 by Rick Cundiff

We serve a lot of public safety organizations here at Police departments, sheriff’s offices, emergency medical services and firefighters.

A big part of our success is the fact that these organizations trust us to do our job right. It’s important that we get the details precise for their department patches.

Take firefighter patches, for example. Many fire departments include a Maltese cross on their official insignia. Others use a St. Florian’s cross instead.

What? You didn’t know the difference? Believe me, the fire departments do. And if we’re creating custom patches for them, they expect us to know the difference too.

Before we get into those differences, a little history is in order.

Who was St. Florian?

He was a Roman soldier, born around 250 AD. He organized elite groups of soldiers whose only job was to fight fires.

But Florian had a secret. He was a Christian in a time when Romans were executing them. He had orders to round up Christians, and when he didn’t persecute them sufficiently for the Emperor’s desires, he was sentenced to die by fire.

Florian challenged his tormentors to light his funeral pyre, saying “if you do, I will climb to Heaven on the flames.”

That was enough for the Roman soldiers. They feared lighting the fire, so they drowned Florian instead.

The cross associated with St. Florian is the most common one used by fire departments. It features eight points, wide sections and rounded edges, that don’t actually meet at a large, round centerpiece.

About that Maltese cross.

In contrast to the Florian cross, the proper Maltese cross also features eight points, but with sharp points that narrow into a “V” shape on each side, meeting at a single center point.

It stems from the days of Knights Hospitaller, a medieval Catholic military order. They too fought fires, often while battling foes.

The Knights Hospitaller evolved into the Knights of Malta, hence the name of the cross they wore became the Maltese cross.

Who's Right?

So which one is correct for firefighters? It doesn’t matter. Both are accepted today as symbols of the fire service. Just be aware that what many people refer to as a “Maltese cross” is actually a “St. Florian” cross

And if you’re ordering custom patches, be sure you have a supplier that knows the difference. That’s where you can depend on us – Let our experienced artists show you how easy it is to order great-looking, durable custom fire department patches.