St. Florian was born in the 4th century AD. He was raised in a Christian family, and from an early age was very pious. He came from a military family, and it was expected that Florian would join the army. He duly did, and advanced through the ranks, and eventually became a Roman officer, who served with distinction in the legions. He was later appointed to a position in the administration of Noricum, modern day Austria. Florian was an able administrator, and helped to create a fire fighting service for the province.
During the cruel reign of the Emperor Diocletian, there was a persecution of Christians. Officials such as Florian were expected to arrest and torment Christians until they renounced their faith. Florian refused to help in the persecution of his fellow Christians, and because of this he had technically committed an act of treason.
In Florian’s "Acts", which is purportedly his spiritual autobiography, he surrendered himself to the governor when rounding up the Christians. After making a bold confession that he was a follower of Christ, he was thrown into prison. Florian was whipped, almost flayed alive, and set on fire, all of which he survived. He was only killed when he was thrown into the river with a stone tied around his neck. Despite his torments, he was brave, and refused to abandon his faith.
His body was recovered and buried by a pious woman, who was told by Florian where to find it in a vision. The remains of the Saint were eventually removed to an Augustinian Abbey near Linz. Florian's relics became associated with miracles. In 1138, the Pope had Florian’s relics moved to Rome, and later gave some of the relics to King Cashmir, the King of Poland. Since that time, St. Florian has been regarded as the patron saint of Poland.
Many miracles of healing are attributed to the Saint, and he is frequently invoked to prevent fires. There was a well-known prayer in Germany and Austria to St. Florian, asking for protection from fire. It is widely believed that St. Florian’s intercession has saved many from fire. As a result, St. Florian is also the patron saint of firefighters.
St. Florian believed that suffering and martyrdom brought a believer nearer to Christ. In reply to the threat of being burned alive by his persecutors, he calmly replied:
"If you do, I will climb to heaven on the flames."