Man with House Weathervane

Artist unkown

c. 1750


Height: 54 cm

This weathervane-like object depicts St Florian, one of the patrons of the Catholic Church and patron saint of Linz in Austria and of Austrian firefighters, chimneysweeps, and brewers. He was frequently invoked against fires, floods, lightning, and the pains of purgatory.

This is not a typical image of St Florian, as he usually depicted as a Roman soldier. Florian was born around 250AD in the ancient Roman city of Aelium Cetium – the present-day Austrian town of St Pölten – and converted to Christianity. He joined the Roman Army but became the victim of Diocletian’s persecution against Christians. When he refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods he 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 do, I will climb to heaven on the flames.’ Apprehensive of his words, the soldiers did not burn Florian, but executed him by him drowning in the Enns River with a millstone tied around his neck.

Weathervanes were usually made by local blacksmiths. This example, though, appears to have been made as decoration, not to work as a vane: it has been made from re-used metal, and is fastened by mechanical and not blacksmith’s pins.