Florian Cross – Symbolic Meaning and Use
A common emblem representing firefighting departments and organizations around the world, the Florian cross is an ancient symbol deeply rooted in Christianity.
Here’s a look at its history and meaning, and how it became a symbol for firefighters.
History of the Florian Cross
Like most crosses, such as the Celtic cross or the thieves/forked cross, the Florian cross also has close associations with Christianity.
The Florian cross is an ancient symbol, named after St. Florian, born in 250 AD. Florian fought in the Roman army and rose in the ranks, becoming a prominent military figure. In addition to this, he was also involved in leading firefighting brigades, training a special group of soldiers to fight fires. Florian was eventually martyred for refusing to offer sacrifices to the Roman gods.
His death was gory – he was initially meant to be burnt but when he challenged the executioners, they decided to drown him instead.
St. Florian is the patron saint of Poland and Austria. He is also the protector of firefighters, chimneysweeps and brewers. In the 1500s, a fire raged through a town in Krakow, burning everything down except a St. Florian’s church. Since then, veneration towards Florian has been strong.
The Florian cross refers to the symbol of St. Florian – a cross with eight points, converging in the center. The edges of the Florian cross are graceful and rounded. This emblem has become highly popular and has been adopted by many firefighting departments. The connection of St. Florian to firefighters and fire has made his symbol highly relevant to firefighters today.
Florian Cross Meaning
The eight points of the Florian cross are believed to represent the virtues of Knighthood. These are:
- Tact and discretion in all things
- Commitment and loyalty
- Dexterity and quickness
- Attentiveness and perceptiveness
- Empathy and compassion
- Perseverance and endurance
Florian Cross vs. Maltese Cross – What’s the Difference?
The Florian cross is often confused with the Maltese cross, as both have a similar design. The Maltese cross features eight sharp points, with four arrowhead-like quadrilaterals converging in the center. It was used as the emblem of the Knights Hospitaller during the Crusades.
The Florian cross, on the other hand, is more curved in appearance. While it still has eight visible points and four components, it looks like a flower, whereas the Maltese cross looks similar to a star.
Both these emblems are used as symbols of firefighting. Some suggest that the Maltese cross is a variation of the Florian cross, which pre-dates it. There’s a case to be made that both these crosses have relevance to firefighters:
- St. Florian is believed to have been an organizer, leader and trainer of firefighters. He is also the patron saint of firefighters, and is frequently depicted with a bucket in hand, dousing a burning building.
- The Maltese cross was the emblem of the Knights who (in at least one instance) valiantly fought against the firebombs of the Saracens, risking their lives to save their burning comrades.
In any case, both symbols are used to represent firefighters, with some organizations adopting the Maltese cross, while others adopt the Florian cross.
Florian Cross in Use Today
Because of its associations with religion, firefighters, bravery, honor, courage and overcoming adversity, the Florian cross is a popular symbol on various retail items, such as keytags, coasters, jewelry, iron-on patches and lapel pins, to name a few.
The Florian cross makes for a great gift to not just firefighters, but to anyone fighting their own demons and overcoming adversity. Below is a list of the editor’s top picks featuring the Florian Cross.
The Florian cross may not be as popular as the Maltese cross, but it’s discernible around the world, most notably as a symbol of firefighters. Although it’s originally a religious symbol, it’s use as a representation of firefighters makes it a universal emblem.
For Saint Florian of Chur, see Florinus of Remüs. For the city in Austria, see Sankt Florian. For the town in Alabama, see St. Florian, Alabama.
Saint Florian (Latin: Florianus; 250 – c. 304 AD) was a Christian holy man, and the patron saint of Linz, Austria; chimney sweeps; soapmakers, and firefighters. His feast day is 4 May. St. Florian is also the patron of Upper Austria, jointly with Saint Leopold.
St. Florian was born around 250 AD in the ancient Roman city of Aelium Cetium, present-day Sankt Pölten, Austria. He joined the Roman Army and advanced in the ranks, rising to commander of the imperial army in the Roman province of Noricum. In addition to his military duties, he was also responsible for organizing and leading firefighting brigades. Florian organized and trained an elite group of soldiers whose sole duty was to fight fires.
During the Diocletianic Persecution of Christians, reports reached Rome that St. Florian was not enforcing the proscriptions against Christians in his territory. Aquilinus was sent to investigate these reports. When Aquilinus ordered Florian to offer sacrifice to the Roman gods in accordance with Roman religion, Florian refused. Florian was sentenced to be burned at the stake. Standing on the funeral pyre, Florian is reputed to have challenged the Roman soldiers to light the fire, saying "If you wish to know that I am not afraid of your torture, light the fire, and in the name of the Lord I will climb onto it." Apprehensive of his words, the soldiers did not burn Florian, but executed him by drowning him in the Enns River with a millstone tied around his neck.
His body was later retrieved by Christians and buried at an Augustinian monastery near Lorch. Later a woman named Valeria had a vision in which she saw him; Florian, in this vision, declared his intent to be buried in a more appropriate location.
Saint Florian is very widely venerated in Central Europe. The Austrian town of Sankt Florian is named after him. According to legend, his body was interred at St. Florian's Priory, around which the town grew up. His body was eventually removed to the Augustinian Abbey of St. Florian, near Linz, Austria.
Saint Florian was adopted as patron saint of Poland in 1184, when Pope Lucius III consented to the request of Prince Casimir II to send relics of Florian to that country. Kraków thus claims some of his relics.
A statue of Florian by Josef Josephu was unveiled in Vienna in 1935. It stood at the main firehouse of Vienna, in the city's main square, Am Hof. After the firehouse was bombed in 1945 during World War II the statue was moved on to the Fire Brigade Museum (Wiener Feuerwehrmuseum).
Seeking the sponsorship of a helpful saint was and still is a part of the namegiving practice in Catholic areas. In the southern, Catholic parts of the German Empire (mainly present Bavaria and Austria), peasants regularly have used the name, Florian, as one of the given names for at least one of their male children: to secure the saint's patronage against fire. Hence the given name is still widespread in these areas.
In Austria and Germany, fire services use Florian in radio communications as universal call sign for fire stations and fire trucks. The call signFlorentine for firefighting-related, handheld radio equipment is also derived, somewhat inaccurately, from that usage.
St. Florian is the patron of Austria and Poland; also firefighters, chimney sweeps, and brewers. He is invoked against fires, floods, lightning, and the pains of purgatory.
A famous St. Florian's Church is located in Kraków. His veneration has been particularly intense since 1528, when a fire burned the neighborhood without destroying the church.
In contemporary culture
The "Florian Principle" (known in German language areas as "Sankt-Florians-Prinzip") is named after a somewhat ironic prayer to Saint Florian: "O heiliger Sankt Florian, verschon' mein Haus, zünd' and're an", equivalent to "O Holy St. Florian, please spare my house, set fire to another one". This saying is used in German much like the English "not in my back yard", when the speaker wants to point out that some person tries to get out of an unpleasant situation by an action that will put others in that very same situation.
The name Florian is considered synonymous with fireman in the German speaking world. In some cases call for a fireman will actually be spoken as calls for Florian.
The protagonist in Felix Salten’s novel Florian: The Emperor’s Stallion was named after Saint Florian, as the animal was born on 4 May 1901 in Lipizza, Austria.
Alfred Schnittke's Symphony No. 2, is subtitled "St. Florian".
- ^(in Greek)Ὁ Ἅγιος Φλωριανὸς ὁ Μάρτυρας. 4 Μαΐου. ΜΕΓΑΣ ΣΥΝΑΞΑΡΙΣΤΗΣ.
- ^ abMendler, Mitch. "Saint Florian – the patron saint of the fire service". Retrieved 16 January 2019.
- ^ abc"St. Florian", Saint Florian Roman Catholic Church
- ^ ab"St. Florian History", Brookline Firefighters Association, Brookline, Massachusetts.
- ^Turkalj, Nikola (2018). Rimski vojnik i vatrogasac. Split: Redak. p. 19. ISBN .
- ^ abSt. Florian - Catholic Online
- ^"The story of Saint Florian, the patron saint of the fire service", City of Columbia, Missouri
- ^For the frequency of this given name in Germany type "Florian"
- ^Lanzi, Fernando and Lanzi, Gioia: "Florian of Lorch, Martyr", Saints and Their Symbols: Recognizing Saints in Art and in Popular Images, p. 86. Liturgical Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8146-2970-9
- ^Internetowa Liturgia Godzin, brewiarz.pl; accessed 29 June 2020 (in Polish).
- ^Salten, Felix (1934). Florian: The Emperor's Stallion. Translated by Erich Posselt and Michel Kraike. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company. p. 17.
- ^Ivashkin, Alexander: Alfred Schnittke, p. 141. London: Phaidon Press Limited, 1996. ISBN 0-7148-3169-7
St. Florian's Cross
Tenets of honour, valour and courage, carried forward 1,700 years to today's heroes
It is popularly believed that Florian was a high-ranking Roman army officer in the Celtic kingdom of Noricum (stretching over the area of today's Austria and Slovenia). His martyrdom, in about 303, was during the persecution of Galerius and shows that as early as the 3rd century Christianity had reached that part of Europe.
There are several versions of the story and most centre on Florian's refusal to renounce his faith, which resulted in his execution. His job in the army was fighting fires and he is said to have prevented a town from burning by praying and throwing a single bucket of water into the flames. It is ironic that he was killed by being burnt on a stake.
His followers were confident the smoke from his body would raise his soul up to heaven, and to counter this possibility, the executioners tied a stone to Florian's neck and tossed his body into the river Enns. Since then, several miracles have been witnessed in the vicinity and Florian is recognised as a saint.
Because of his role as a firefighter and his steadfast faith which resulted in his martyrdom, St. Florian has become patron saint of firefighters.
St. Florian's Cross
Little wonder, then, that the cross associated with St. Florian is used as a badge for firefighters today in many countries, especially the US and Canada.
St. Florian's Cross
The St. Florian's Cross is based on the St. John's Cross.
The main difference being the ends of the St. Florian Cross are convex, in contrast the St. John's Cross, where the ends are either flat or concave. (This 'bulging' of the cross ends may have been influenced by the French Occitan Cross.)
The main similarity is that there are eight corner points on both cross styles. As with the St. John's Cross, these eight points are often associated with the eight beatitudes.
For the fire service, the eight points on St. Florian's Cross represent the eight different virtues of Knighthood:
- Tact and discretion
- Loyalty and commitment
- Dexterity and mental adroitness
- Observation, attentiveness and perceptiveness
- Sympathy, compassion and sharing
- Explicitness and thoroughness
- Gallantry, and
For fire and police badges of Britain, Commonwealth and other countries, see Brunswick Cross
Enns, where it flows into the river Danube, near Linz, between Salzburg and Vienna
Other patron saints of firefighters include St. Barbara, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Eustachius and St. John. In addition to being patron saint of firefighters, Florian is also patron saint of barrel-makers, coopers and brewers (he is said to have thrown a beer cask of water to quell the flames of the burning town); also of protector for other dangerous occupations: chimney sweeps and soap-boilers. He is a patron saint for harvests and against battle, drowning, fire and flood. For locations, Florian is patron saint of Upper Austria, the town of Linz in Austria, the diocese of Chur in Switzerland, and Poland.
The St. Florian's Cross is conspicuously absent from the badge of firefighters in Austria; the 'home' of St. Florian.
Beatitude: One of the eight sayings at the beginning of Jesus' very first sermon - the Sermon on the Mount. In Latin each saying begins with beatus (blessed) and they are listed in Matt. 5:3-11.
Take a look at any firehouse around the world and you’re likely to see some form of the iconic cross-shaped fire department logo. Have you ever wondered where this logo originated, and how it came to be synonymous with “Fire Department”? While the evolution of the icon is fuzzy, it can be traced back to two distinct points of origin, one as early as the 4th century.
Saint Florian’s Cross
The earliest origins of the cross trace back to Saint Florian, a Roman officer in the early 4th century who, in addition to commanding the ranks of the Northeastern Roman army, was tasked with organizing firefighting brigades. Florian’s men weren’t the first group of firefighters in Rome, but they were certainly the best. Florian was so dedicated to protecting Roman citizens that he organized and trained an elite group of soldiers whose sole duty was to fight fires.
Later in Florian’s life he was found to have refused to worship the Roman gods, and was sentenced to death. His body was recovered and buried, and he was later venerated and declared a saint. Ever since, fire fighters and military bands worldwide have adopted the iconic cross that can be seen in many depictions of Florian.
The Maltese Cross
Though Florian’s cross is probably the most common, many departments have adopted the “Maltese Cross”. Though similar, this particular icon has a different origin story. The first group to don the cross was known as the Order of the Knights Hospitaller, or the Knights of St. John. This group, founded in Jerusalem during the 11th century, banded together and risked their lives to fight off the attacking Saracens and their deadly fire-bombs. As recognition for their bravery, the Knights of St. John were given the island of Malta. Soon after, the symbol on the island’s flag became synonymous with this order of fire fighters and the bravery they showed in the Holy Land.
Whether your department uses St. Florian’s Cross, or the Maltese Cross, it is clear that the symbol represents the honor and bravery shown by firefighters. As the New York City Fire Department puts it: “The Maltese Cross is a firefighter's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage - a ladder rung away from death.”
St. Florian (detail), Altarpiece, Strasbourg Cathedral
Images of a knight serenely dousing a burning building with a bucket of water have mystified generations of travelers journeying through Europe. The knight can be found atop pillars in city squares, emblazoned on buildings, and perched beside church altars. Depictions of the knight, identifiable as Saint Florian, are particularly common in central Europe, where he continues to be honored and venerated to this day. I have even encountered his statue in a Salzburg hotel calmly quenching a fire with a telltale bucket and have wondered at his likeness on a fire extinguisher in the sleepy town of Maria Alm, Austria. Why does Saint Florian carry a bucket? What is the meaning of the burning building at his feet? And why is he so popular in central Europe?
Who Was Saint Florian?
Saint Florian was a Roman army officer who held an administrative post in Noricum, a Roman province that included what is now Austria. In 304, during the Christian persecutions of the emperor Diocletian, Saint Florian publicly revealed he was a Christian and was subsequently tortured and killed for his faith. According to the Passion of Saint Florian, Florian encountered soldiers with whom he had previously served as he approached Lorch (Lauriacum). When he asked where they were going, they responded, “Have you not heard the emperor’s commands which reached the praeses, in accordance with which he orders all men to offer libations to the gods, and that those who refuse should be put to death by various means?” Florian answered, “Brother and fellow soldiers, what else do you need seeing that I am a Christian? Go and tell the praeses that I am a Christian and am here.”
The soldiers were skeptical of Florian’s surprising confession, but they dutifully arrested him and brought him before the governor, Aquilinus, who first encouraged and then ordered Florian to offer sacrifice to the gods to prove he was not a Christian. When Florian refused, the governor ordered him beaten with clubs. Florian replied, “Be as angry and do as much harm as you can, since you possess power over my body which has been given to you for now. If you want to know why I do not fear your tortures, light a fire, and I will climb upon it.”
According to various sources, Florian was beaten with clubs, was “twice scourged, half-flayed alive and finally thrown into the river Enns with a stone around his neck.” Because he was martyred by drowning, Saint Florian is often invoked as a protector against drowning or against danger from water, including flooding. He is also frequently portrayed in art with a millstone around his neck or in close proximity.
Patron Saint of Firefighters
Saint Florian is also recognized as the patron saint of firefighters, although the reason for his association with firefighting is unclear. Some commentators have tried to link the origin of the tradition to his martyrdom, although Saint Florian was not recognized as a protector against fire until much later. Florian’s association with firefighting likely derives from a legend that arose in the Middle Ages, a legend that also explains why he is commonly portrayed with a bucket and a burning building.
St. Florian, Waldauf Chapel, Hall in Tyrol
Explanations tracing Saint Florian’s patronage of firefighters to his martyrdom seem improbable, particularly since they involve some manipulation of the historical sources. A number of online sources claim that Saint Florian’s executioners initially intended to burn him at the stake, but Saint Florian told them, “If you do, I will climb to heaven on the flames.” At this, they grew uneasy, and they decided to beat him instead before ultimately drowning him in the Enns. While this version of the story may sound compelling, it is not entirely consistent with earlier versions of Saint Florian’s “acts.”
As noted in the Passion of Saint Florian, above, Florian did tell Aquilinus, “light a fire, and I will climb upon it,” but he made no reference to rising to heaven either on its smoke or flames as some online sources suggest. These sources tend to misquote the Passion and unintentionally shift the focus of Florian’s words from his faith in Christ to his faith in his own apotheosis. Florian invoked the image of a pyre to affirm his Christian beliefs and to demonstrate his willingness to suffer torture for it, not as gasconade. The Acta Sanctorum similarly places Florian’s statement in this context. In it, Saint Florian had already been beaten “for a long time,” when he turned to Aquilinus and said, “You have power over my body, but not over my soul. So do whatever harm you can, since no way will I submit to your commands. In order that you may learn that I do not fear your tortures, order a strong fire to be lit, and, in the name of my God, I will walk upon it without harm.”
Modern commentators appear to be reaching for a link between Saint Florian’s martyrdom and his status as a protector against fire. However, because Saint Florian did not become identified with firefighting until centuries after his death, during the late Middle Ages, it is unlikely the circumstances of his death precipitated the tie to firefighting.
Most representations of Saint Florian depict him dressed as a Roman soldier or a medieval knight holding either a banner or sword in one hand, a bucket or pitcher in the other, with a burning building, city, or church at his feet. Alternatively, as mentioned above, he may be shown with a millstone, the instrument of his death. According to a catalogue published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Saint Florian first appeared with a bucket and a burning building in the late 15th century. According to legend, Saint Florian managed to save a burning house – sometimes it is as an entire city – with a single bucket of water. Florian’s reputation as a protector against fire earned him great devotion in medieval society, which lived in constant fear of fire and the threat of urban conflagration.
Representations of Florian as a firefighting saint quickly gained popularity, particularly in Austria and southern Germany. In the region even today, Saint Florian has become so synonymous with firefighting that his image is readily used to identify fire stations and departments. The exteriors of firehouses frequently feature an image of Saint Florian on a wall or a statue of Saint Florian tucked into a niche. The name “Florian” even serves as a universal radio call sign for Feuerwehr (fire department) vehicles and stations.
The Florian Cross
Beyond Austria and Germany, Saint Florian’s influence on firefighting may be less conspicuous, but it is still discernible. Many fire departments incorporate what has come to become known as a “Florian cross” or “cross of Saint Florian” into their badges, patches, and other organizational emblems. The cross features four triangular arms, of equal length, that are rounded at each terminus and that taper toward the center. (An example is depicted at left, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.) Often confused with the Maltese cross, which has no curved lines, the origin of the Florian cross’s design remains obscure. Many commentators have argued that the Maltese cross, which the Knights of Saint John famously wore to identify members of their order, became a symbol of firefighters because firefighters, like the earlier knights, were willing to lay down their lives to protect others. While this explanation may sound plausible, it ignores the fact the Florian cross is simply not a Maltese cross.
Alternatively, the Florian cross may have evolved from a Maltese cross over time. (An example of a Maltese cross is depicted at left, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.) Many cross variations share similar features, and it is possible the Maltese cross gradually developed into a Florian cross over the course of several centuries. A comparison of the two symbols – one featuring relatively thin, angular arms, the other comprised of broad, curved arms – suggests, however, that such a radical metamorphosis is unlikely to have occurred. Another explanation is that the Florian cross is sui generis – though possibly inspired by the Maltese cross.
The various representations of Saint Florian I’ve examined, mostly from the medieval period, offer no clues to the cross’s origin. Occasionally, Saint Florian is portrayed holding a banner emblazoned with a cross, but the cross it features is invariably a simple Latin cross. In at least early representations of Saint Florian, the saint does not appear to wear or carry the symbol that has come to bear his name. On the other hand, many protective medals and medallions featuring Saint Florian are shaped in variations of the Florian cross, with broad, curved arms enclosing an image of the saint. Could the shape of early Saint Florian medallions have inspired the outline of the Florian cross? Perhaps it’s a question of the chicken or the egg, and ultimately, I do not know how the Florian cross came to be. My guess is the design derives from the late 19th century, since that appears to be when fire departments began to incorporate a cross into their emblems.
The Relics of Saint Florian and the Royal Road
In addition to serving as the patron saint of firefighters, Saint Florian is also the patron saint of various localities, including Linz, Austria; the state of Oberösterreich (Upper Austria), Austria; and Poland.
According to legend, after Florian was drowned in the Enns, his body was recovered by a devout woman named Valeria and was buried. His body was eventually transferred to the Augustinian Abbey of Saint Florian, near Linz.
In 1184, Pope Lucius III sent relics of Saint Florian to Duke Kasimir the Just of Poland. Kasimir had the relics sent to Krakow, one of Poland’s oldest and most important cities. According to tradition, the horses carrying the relics stopped in Kleparz, a medieval suburb of the Cracow, before reaching the city gate and refused to continue any further. Their obstinacy was interpreted as a sign, and the church of Saint Florian (pictured above) was erected on the spot to house the relics.
After the capital was moved from Krakow to Warsaw, the church of Saint Florian became the receiving point for the bodies of deceased royalty, who continued to be buried at Krakow’s Wawel Cathedral. Royal funeral processions followed what became known as the Royal Road or Royal Route, a course replete with references to Saint Florian. The route originated at the church of Saint Florian, passed through the 14th century Florian Gate with its polychrome figure of Florian extinguishing a gilded fire, and continued along Floriańska Street before reaching the Main Market Square. From there, the route wound through the Old Town, past the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, to Wawel Hill and its looming cathedral.
The Royal Road with the tower of the Florian Gate at left
May I Propose a Toast . . .
Shortly after returning from a trip to southern Austria, I stumbled upon this passage from the correspondence of John Lothrop Motley, a 19th century American historian. Written almost 179 years earlier, I was struck by how, in some ways, very little has changed since Motley’s own travels through the region. On the other hand, I was surprised to learn of Saint Florian’s apparent standing as the patron saint of innkeepers and brewers. Motley writes:
Maria Alm, Austria
“Among other Catholic images which are strewed all along the roadside, one in particular puzzled me for a long time—the figure of a saint in armour with a sword in the right hand and a bucket of water in the left, which he is emptying on a burning house. I have found that it is St. Florian, the patron saint of burning houses and firemen, and also, according to the popular legends, of innkeepers and brewers, to whom he always sends a sufficient quantity of water to temper their wine and other potations, and who in gratitude, as I have observed, have always his figure over their doorways.”
While Saint Florian may also serve as a patron saint of brewers, it is as the patron saint of firefighters that he is frequently identified today. In fact, in 1999, the date of International Firefighters Day was fixed as May 4th, the feast day of Saint Florian. Fittingly, both Saint Florian and the heroic firefighters he is often invoked to protect, may now be celebrated and remembered on the very same day.
Florian Street, Krakow, Poland
See, e.g., 1 The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley 38 (George William Curtis ed., 1889)
See, e.g., 2 Butler’s Lives of the Saints 230-31 (Herbert J. Thurston, S.J. & Donald Attwater eds., 2d ed. 1956).
 Butler’s Lives of the Saints, supra note 2, at 230.
See, e.g., The Public Safety Net, supra note 8; Saint Florian Roman Catholic Church, supra note 8; Brookline Firefighters Association, supra note 8.
See Metropolitan Museum of Art, Medieval Art from Private Collections: A Special Exhibition at the Cloisters 61 (1968) (“At the end of the Middle Ages he came to be regarded as a protector against fire.”).
Id. (“The earliest representations of him with a bucket and a burning house are of the late fifteenth century.”).
See, e.g., George Ferguson, Signs and Symbols in Christian Art 71 (1959).
 Some fire departments, however, do incorporate a Maltese cross, rather than a Florian cross, into their emblems. See, for example, the Canadian Fire Service.
See, e.g., Mica Calfee, “The ‘Maltese Cross’ and the Fire Service,” available at http://www.fireserviceinfo.com/maltesecross.html (citing a 1882 newspaper article describing a local NY fire department’s decision to adopt a new “Maltese cross” badge design); “Origins of the Fire Service Badge,” Hampshire (UK) Fire and Rescue Service, available at http://www.hantsfire.gov.uk/theservice/organisation/history/servicebadgesorigin.htm (“Quite when the star was first used in this country for the badge of a firefighter is not easy to establish. The earliest example found is the brass eight pointed star adopted for use by the National Fire Brigades Association in 1887.”) The 1887 National Fire Brigade Association badge appears to be an actual Maltese cross. Over time, it evolved into something quite different, although the original eight points of the Maltese cross are still discernible. Could the Florian cross have developed similarly over time?
See, e.g., Teresa Czerniewicz-Umer, Eyewitness Travel: Cracow 138 (2010)
 The Correspondence of John Lothrop Motley, supra note 1.
The Maltese vs. Florian cross: Which one is correct?
By Camila Martinez-Granata
Every fire department is different. But the one similarity between fire departments across the country is their logo: the Maltese cross.
Or so we think.
Contrary to popular belief, the Maltese cross is not the cross found on the majority of department logos; that would be the Florian cross. Although both have undeniable similarities, they are indeed different and have different origins.
By delving into the history of the Maltese and Florian cross, we can understand — and settle — where and how the two came to be such an integral symbol of the fire service.
THE MALTESE CROSS
The Maltese cross is an eight-pointed cross formed by four v-shaped elements that each meet at its vertex.
The shape itself has origins dating back to Byzantine culture in the 6th century. It was originally a white cross placed on a red or black backdrop.
WHEN DID IT FIRST APPEAR?
The Maltese cross has origins dating back to the Crusades and the Knights Hospitaller. These knights bore the cross, a religious symbol, on their uniforms. During the Crusades, the Knights battled the Saracens, who used fire bombs made from naphtha. Hundreds of Knights were burned alive, and many fellow Knights did their best to save them. Hence, the first “fire fighters.”
Following the Crusades, the Knights made their way to the island of Malta in the 16th century, where the cross remained in use. A sister organization of the Knights was the Order of St. John’s, a group dedicated to providing care and treating the public. The Maltese cross eventually appeared on the one- and two-euro coins.
While tracking down the Maltese cross’ first appearance in the U.S. fire service isn’t exactly easy, some historians note it was first used by the New York Fire Department in 1865.
WHAT DOES THE MALTESE CROSS MEAN?
For the Knights, the cross’ eight points each represent eight obligations or aspirations, which include:
- To live in truth
- To have faith
- To repent one’s sins
- To give proof of humility
- To love justice
- To be merciful
- To be sincere and wholehearted
- To endure persecution
For St. John’s, the cross’ eight points have similar, albeit different meanings — all of which represent the traits of a good first responder.
- Discriminating (using good judgement)
WHAT ABOUT THE FLORIAN CROSS?
Enter the Maltese cross’ competitor: The Florian cross. Often confused with the Maltese cross, the Florian cross is what a majority of fire departments use. It carries the same, eight-point structure as the Maltese cross, but has rounded edges.
Some historians indicate the Florian cross came into existence in the 4th century and was named after a Roman officer. The Roman army tasked Saint Florian with organizing firefighting brigades for the city. Although St. Florian and his men were not the first firefighters in the city, they were considered the best and most well-known.
St. Florian was later declared a saint after he was sentenced to death for his refusal to worship the Roman gods. Historical images of St. Florian often depict him in uniform with a bucket of water in hand with a burning building at his feet — which is how he became a patron saint of firefighters.
Which one is the one?
The answer isn’t simple (and neither is the history). Both crosses retain historical significance relating to a group of individuals who battled fire and lived to serve others. Although some argue the Florian cross eventually evolved into the Maltese cross, its Roman ties are a testament to the importance and value of the fire service.
Regardless of which cross your department uses, they’re both legitimate — and powerful — symbols of the fire service.
Next: Guidelines for wearing the Maltese cross
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He stood in the hallway looking at me motionless, his face was stone. Abruptly he grabbed his trigger on the fly, putting on shoes and began to go out and I realized what he was going to do: Ruslan is not. Necessary !!!. - I'll kill this bitch !!!.