Florian Cross – Symbolic Meaning and Use

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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:

  1. Tact and discretion in all things
  2. Commitment and loyalty
  3. Dexterity and quickness
  4. Attentiveness and perceptiveness
  5. Empathy and compassion
  6. Gallantry
  7. Perseverance and endurance

Florian Cross vs. Maltese Cross – What’s the Difference?

Maltese cross symbol

Maltese cross

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 vs. Maltese 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.

Editor's Top Picks
All Patron Saints Saint Florian Firefighter Prayer Auto Visor Clip
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HZMAN Philippians 4:13 Cross Pendant Strength Bible Verse Stainless Steel Necklace (Gold)
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Firefighter Maltese Cross Sterling Silver with Prayer Blessing Pendant
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Last update was on: September 19, 2021 11:11 am

In Brief

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. 

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