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Saint Roch
Saint Roch
Born c.1348 (trad 1295), Montpellier, France
Died 15/16 August 1376/79, Voghera, Italy (trad 1327, Montpellier, France)
Venerated in The Roman Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, Episcopal Churches
Canonized by popular fervour; added to the Roman Martyrology by Pope Gregory XIV (1590-1591)
Major shrine Church of San Rocco, Venice, Italy
Feast August 16
Attributes Wound on thigh, dog offering bread
Patronage Invoked against: cholera, epidemics, knee problems, plague, skin diseases. Patron Saint of: bachelors, diseased cattle, dogs, falsely accused people, invalids, surgeons, tile-makers,[1] gravediggers, second-hand dealers, pilgrims, apothecaries

Saint Roch or Rocco (Arabic: روكز‎; Latin: Rochus; Catalan: Roc; Italian: Rocco; French: Roch; Maltese: Rokku; Spanish and Portuguese: Roque; German: Rochus; Slovene and Croatian: Rok; Dalmatian: Roko; Hungarian: Rókus; Greek: Pókkou); lived c.1348 - 15/16 August 1376/79 (traditionally c.1295 – 16 August 1327[2]), also known as Rock or Rocco in English, was a Christian saint, a confessor whose death is commemorated on 16 August; he is specially invoked against the plague.

The Cult of Saint Roch

According to the research of the Belgian historian Pierre Bolle[3] (2001), that represent today the most exhaustive work on ancient lives of the saint, Saint Roch is not properly a historical saint. The work of Bolle by using a rigorous historical methodology, has clarified which of the hagiographies were the most ancient, and which were instead simple reworks and additions. According to Pierre Bolle, Saint Roch is a hagiographical doublet of a more ancient saint, Saint Racho of Autun (died ca. 660). Invoked for protection against storms, the figure of Raco would be the basis of the name of our saint (Raco/Roch), and of the patronage of the saint who recovers from the plague, patronage that would have been generated through aphaeresis, i.e. the fall of the first syllable of the word, from the French name “tempeste” (storm): thus, from “Racho” invoked to protect from “tem-peste”, to “Roch” protecting from “-peste” (plague) the step was short. It was supported by the theories of medieval medicine, that attributed the causes of illness to the corruption of air and to the consequent breaking of the equilibrium of humours inside the human body.

According to the veteran scholar André Vauchez, doyen of hagiographical studies, introducing the volume of essays resulting from a symposium on Roch in Padua, 2004, Bolle's doctoral thesis "devastates pretty much everything we thought we knew about St. Roch and his cult"[4] Consequently, the thesis of Bolle has completely revolutionized the studies on the saint, even if in the hagiographic field the existence of doublets and homonyms to the base of the creation of new saints is a well known procedure.

His studies, however, cannot disprove certain historical data that can provide evidence for the Saint Roch of Montpellier. We know a prisoner of 5 years of French origin died in Voghera, Italy the night between the 15th and 16 August, between 1376 and 1379,[5] who according to some sources attained a certain fame for sanctity in Piacenza and Sarmato. Historically and very important is the fact that the 1391 calendar of Voghera records a mid-summer festival in honor of Sancti Rochi (St. Roch of Montpellier, the 16th of August) and not Sancti Rochonis (St. Racho of Autun, the 25th of January), indicating the existence of two different saints.[6] This information proves that a local cult and feast of St. Roch of Montpellier existed at least as early as 1391, starting in Voghera before Montpellier. We also have documentation of the body of St. Roch of Montpellier present in Voghera in 1469 and it being venerated since at least then; and of a feast in his honor being celebrated in 1483 with the presence of his remains. This information has led to the now common belief that St. Roch probably died in Voghera, Italy, instead of Montpellier, France.


Saint Roch, Scilla, Italy.

According to his Acta and his vita in Legenda Aurea, he was born at Montpellier, at that time "upon the border of France" as Legenda Aurea has it,[7] the son of the noble governor of that city. Even his birth was accounted a miracle, for his noble mother had been barren until she prayed to the Virgin Mary. Miraculously marked from birth with a red cross on his breast that grew as he did, he early began to manifest strict asceticism and great devoutness; on days when his "devout mother fasted twice in the week, and the blessed child Rocke abstained him twice also, when his mother fasted in the week, and would suck his mother but once that day".[8]

On the death of his parents in his twentieth year he distributed all his worldly goods among the poor like Francis of Assisi— though his father on his deathbed had ordained him governor of Montpellier— and set out as a mendicant pilgrim for Rome.[9] Coming into Italy during an epidemic of plague, he was very diligent in tending the sick in the public hospitals at Acquapendente, Cesena, Rimini, Novara[10] and Rome, and is said to have effected many miraculous cures by prayer and the sign of the cross and the touch of his hand. At Rome, according to Legenda Aurea he preserved the "cardinal of Angleria in Lombardy"[11] by making the mark of the cross on his forehead, which miraculously remained. Ministering at Piacenza he himself finally fell ill. He was expelled from the town; and withdrew into the forest, where he made himself a hut of boughs and leaves, which was miraculously supplied with water by a spring that arose in the place; he would have perished had not a dog belonging to a nobleman named Gothard Palastrelli supplied him with bread and licked his wounds, healing them. Count Gothard, following his hunting dog that carried the bread, discovered Saint Roch and became his acolyte.

On his return incognito to Montpellier he was arrested as a spy (by orders of his own uncle) and thrown into prison, where he languished five years and died on 16 August 1327, without revealing his name, to avoid worldly glory. (Evidence suggests, as mentioned earlier, that the previous events occurred, instead at Voghera in 1370s). After his death, according to Legenda Aurea,

"anon an angel brought from heaven a table divinely written with letters of gold into the prison, which he laid under the head of S. Rocke. And in that table was written that God had granted to him his prayer, that is to wit, that who that calleth meekly to S. Rocke he shall not be hurt with any hurt of pestilence."

The townspeople recognized him as well by his birthmark;[12] he was soon canonized in the popular mind,[13] and a great church erected in veneration.

The date (1327) asserted by Francesco Diedo for Saint Roch's death would precede the traumatic advent of the Black Death in Europe (1347-49) after long centuries of absence, for which a rich iconography of the plague, its victims and its protective saints was soon developed, in which the iconography of Roche finds its historical place: previously the topos did not exist.[14] In contrast, however, St. Roch of Montpellier cannot be dismissed based on dates of a specific plague event. In medieval times, the term "plague" was used to indicate a whole array of illnesses and epidemics.

The first literary account is an undated Acta that is labeled, by comparison with the longer, elaborated accounts that were to follow, Acta Breviora, which relies almost entirely on standardized hagiographic topoi to celebrate and promote the cult of Roch[15]

The story that when the Council of Constance was threatened with plague in 1414, public processions and prayers for the intercession of Roch were ordered, and the outbreak ceased, is provided by Francesco Diedo, the Venetian governor of Brescia, in his Vita Sancti Rochi, 1478. The cult of Roch gained momentum during the bubonic plague that passed through northern Italy in 1477-79.[16]

Statue of St Roch in Bílá Hora, Prague (1751)

His popular cult, originally in central and northern Italy and at Montpellier, spread through Spain, France, Lebanon, the Low Countries, and Germany, where he was often interpolated into the roster of the Fourteen Holy Helpers, whose veneration spread in the wake of the Black Death. The magnificent 16th-century Scuola Grande di San Rocco and the adjacent church of San Rocco were dedicated to him by a confraternity at Venice, where his body was said to have been surreptitiously translated and was triumphantly inaugurated in 1485;[17] the Scuola Grande is famous for its sequence of paintings by Tintoretto, who painted St Roch in glory in a ceiling canvas (1564).

We know for certain that the body of St. Roch was carried from Voghera, instead of Montpellier as previously thought, to Venice in 1485. Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) built a church and a hospital in his honor. Pope Paul III (1534-1549) instituted a confraternity of St. Roch. This was raised to an arch-confraternity in 1556 by Pope Paul IV; it still thrives today.[18] Saint Roch had not been officially recognized as yet, however. In 1590 the Venetian ambassador at Rome reported back to the Serenissima that he had been repeatedly urged to present the witnesses and documentation of the life and miracles of San Rocco, already deeply entrenched in the Venetian life, because Pope Sixtus V "is strong in his opinion either to canonize him or else to remove him from the ranks of the saints"; the ambassador had warned a cardinal of the general scandal that would result if the widely venerated San Rocco were impugned as an imposter. Sixtus did not pursue the matter but left it to later popes to proceed with the canonization process.[19] His successor, Pope Gregory XIV (1590-1591), added St. Roch of Montpellier, who had already been memoralized in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for two centuries, to the Roman Martyrology, thereby fixing August 16 as his universal feast day.[6]

Numerous brotherhoods have been instituted in his honor. He is usually represented in the garb of a pilgrim, often lifting his tunic to demonstrate the plague sore in his thigh, and accompanied by a dog carrying a loaf in its mouth.

Saint Roch joined Saint Gerald (San Gerardo) as a patron saint of the city of Potenza, Italy.

Saint Roch Churches


Burial place of Saint Roch, Church of San Rocco in Venice, Italy

Saint-Roch, Paris, designed by Lemercier, begun 1653: pen-and-ink drawing by Charles Norry, 1787

  • San Roque (Cádiz), town in Andalucia, Spain, named after Saint Roch
  • Église Saint-Roch, Paris, Rue St.-Honoré: the largest Late Baroque church in Paris
  • St. Roch's Church in Glasgow, Scotland
  • Church of Saint Roch, attached to the Scuola Grande di San Rocco in Venice, Italy
  • Eglise (Paroisse-Sanctuaire) de St. Roch in Montpellier, France
  • St. Rochus Chapel in Bingen am Rhein, Germany
  • Chiesa di San Rocco in Miasino (Novara), Italy
  • Chiesa di San Rocco in Scilla, Italy
  • Chiesa di San Rocco in Salandra, Italy
  • Chiesa di San Rocco in Cles, Italy
  • Chiesa di San Rocco in Molinara, Italy
  • Kappella ta' San Rokku in Attard, Malta
  • Igreja de São Roque in Lisbon, Portugal
  • St. Roch Church in Białystok, Poland
  • San Rocco, church in Rome
  • Sveti Rok, church in Brežice, Slovenia
  • Sveti Roko, church (not in use) Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • San Rocco in Sora, (FR), Italy
  • Chapelle Saint Roch in Eprave (Rochefort) Belgique
  • Sint-Rochus Kerk in Aarschot, Belgium
  • Sint-Rochus Kerk in Halle, Belgium
  • Rochuskirche in the Düsseldorf-Pempelfort district of Düsseldorf [1]
  • Rochuskirche in the Landstraße district of Vienna [2]
  • St. Roch Church in Minsk, Belarus
  • San Roque de Manila Parish in Manila, Philippines
  • Chiesa di San Rocco, Venice, Italy
  • Chiesa di San Rocco in Casignana, Italy
  • Chiesa di San Rocco (Καθολικός Ναός του Αγίου Ρόκκου) in Hania, Crete, Greece [3]


  • Saint Roch Church in Rayfoun, Lebanon
  • Monastery of Saint Roch, Dekouaneh, Lebanon
  • Monastery of Saint Roch, Riyak, Bekaa, Lebanon

North America

  • St. Roch's Catholic Church Toronto, Ontario
  • St. Roch Church in St. Louis, Missouri
  • St. Roch's Church in Staten Island, New York
  • St. Rocco's Church in Johnston, Rhode Island
  • St. Rocco's Church in Dunmore, Pennsylvania
  • St. Rocco's Church in Glen Cove, New York
  • St. Roch Church in Indianapolis, Indiana
  • St. Roch Church in Mentz, Texas
  • St Roch Church In Flat Rock, Michigan
  • San Rocco Oratory in Chicago Heights, Illinois
  • St. Rocco's Church in Cleveland, Ohio
  • St Roch Church, Oxford, Massachusetts
  • San Roque Church in Santa Barbara, California
  • St Roch Church, Quebec City, Canada
  • Campo Santo and St. Roch Chapel in New Orleans, Louisiana
  • St. Rocco's Church in Pittston, Pennsylvania
  • St. Roch Church in the Chickahominy section of Greenwich, Connecticut.
  • St. Rochus Croatian Catholic Church in Johnstown, Pennsylvania (Closed July 22, 2009)
  • St. Roch's Catholic Church in Kahuku, Hawaii
  • St. Rocco's RC Church Brooklyn, New York
  • St. Rocco's Church Martins Creek, Pennsylvania

Pacific (Asia and Australia)

  • San Roque Chapel, Bongoran, Oas, Albay, Philippines
  • Saint Roch Catholic Church in Kahuku Hawaii
  • St. Roch's Church in Hanmer Springs, (Canterbury, New Zealand)
  • St. Roch's Church in Glen Iris, Melbourne, Australia
  • San Roque Church in JP Rizal St., San Roque, Marikina City, Philippines.
  • San Roque Parish Church of Navotas (Metro Manila, Philippines)
  • San Roque Cathedral, Diocese of Caloocan (Metro Manila, Philippines)
  • San Roque Church of Mandaluyong City (Metro Manila, Philippines)
  • San Roque parish Church Cavite City (cavite city, Philippines)
  • San Roque de Manila Parish in Rizal Avenue, Sta.Cruz, Manila (Philippines)
  • St. Roch Parish, Baluarte, Gapan City, Nueva Ecija, Philippines
  • Gumayu'us San Roque in San Roque village, Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • St. Roch's Church in Seethapal, Kanyakumari District, Tamilnadu, India
  • St. Roch's Church in Puthukudyiruppu, Nagercoil,Tamil Nadu, India
  • St. Roch's Church in Veepu Vilai,Puthukkadai 629171,Kanyakumari dist,Tamil Nadu, India
  • St. Roque's Chapel,Bandora,Ponda,Goa,India. C/o. St.Anne's Church, Under O.F.M. Franciscan Friars,Ponda,Goa 403401,India.
  • St. Roch Church in Nadu Aarupuzhi, Tirunelveli, Tamilnadu, India
  • San Roque GKK Dist. 1 Chapel, Tupaz St., Matina Crossing, Davao City
  • San Roque Parish Ilasan,Tayabas City, Philippines
  • San Roque de Pasay, (Metro Manila, Philippines)
  • St. Rochs grotto at Assumption Church,Cheriyathura,Trivandrum 695008,India.Every Monday evening the faithful join for prayers.St.Rochs Association celebrates the feast on second Sunday of December followed by Christmas Celebrations every year.
  • San Roque Chapel, Mabolo Valenzuela City (Philippines)

South America

  • Iglesia de San Roque in Tarija, Bolivia
  • Igreja de São Roque em São Roque (Sao Roque Town), Estado de São Paulo (Sao Paolo State) Brazil
  • Iglesia de San Roque en San Francisco de la Montaña, Panamá

Other things named after St Roch

  • São Roque (disambiguation), a list of Portuguese towns named after Saint Roch
  • St. Roch Avenue in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans, LA
  • Sveti Rok Tunnel (Croatian Tunel Sveti Rok) in Lika, Croatia on the A1 Motorway
  • [4] Chemin St-Roch (Road) in the city of Terrebonne, province of Quebec, Canada
  • [5] Chemin St-Roch (Road) in the city of Saint-Paul de Vence, province of Alpes-Maritimes, France
  • [6] Chemin St-Roch (Road) in the city of Hamme Mille near Beauvechain, province of Walloon Brabant, Belgium
  • [7] Chemin Saint Roch (Road) in the city of Beaumont, province of Hainaut, Belgium
  • RCMPV St. Roch, Canadian RCMP Arctic survey schooner built in 1928

Popular culture

  • A popular Spanish tongue twister is El perro de san Roque no tiene rabo porque Ramón Ramírez se lo ha robado ("Saint Roch's dog has no tail because Ramón Ramírez stole it").
  • In Bolivia, Saint Roch's day, though not as celebrated as it once was, is considered the "birthday of all dogs", in which the dogs around town can be seen with colorful ribbons tied to them.
  • The main train station of Montpellier, France is named after St. Roch, as well as a church and many squares and streets.
  • In Bingen, Germany there is a St. Rochus pilgrimage church on top of a hill. Every year in August a one-week pilgrimage -the "St. Rochusfest"- is held in memory of a 17th-century vow of the city council.
  • Some churches that are named after the saint distribute, as a pietistic practice, the "bread of Saint Rocco" to parishioners on August 16, his feast day.
  • Saint Rocco's procession is the Saint featured in the movie The Godfather Part II. In the procession, The St. Rocco Society of Potenza,Inc., which still exists after its commencement in 1889, carries the Italian-made (original) statue in a similar manner a replica statue is carried today. The original statue, also from 1889, can be viewed in St. Joseph's Church in New York City.
  • According to Montague Summers' The Vampire in Europe, St. Roch was prayed to in Poland to ward off vampire attacks.
  • The initials, VSR (Viva San Rocco or Long Live St. Rocco), can still be found above doorways in Europe: this was engraved as a plea to ward off the plague.


  1. Patron Saints Index: Saint Roch
  2. The date was offered by Francesco Diedo, Vita Sancti Rochi 1478.
  3. Bolle, Saint Roch. Genèse et première expansion d’une culte au XVeme siècle (Free University of Brussels) 2001.
  4. "qui ruine à peu près toutes les certitudes que l'on croyait avoir à propos de saint Roch et de son culte," San Rocco: Genesi e prima espansione di un culto. Incontro di studio—Padova, 12–13 febbraio 2004 Antonio Rigon and André Vauchez, eds. (Subsidia hagiographica, 87.) (Brussels: Société des Bollandistes) 2006:1.
  5. Vigo, Gian Paolo. "Carta di Identita' Rocchiana" 2005.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Paolo Ascogni and Pierre Bolle. Rocco di Montpellier: voghera e il suo santo. Documenti e testimonianze sulla nascita del culto di un santo tra i più amati della cristianità (Voghera, 2001).
  7. An estimated date, about 1295, has been interpolated.
  8. Legenda Aurea, William Caxton's translation, 1483.
  9. He is conventionally portrayed with pilgrim's wide-brimmed hat, staff and purse.
  10. "There is little concern for mapping a logical itinerary" remarks Louise Marshall, "Manipulating the Sacred: Image and Plague in Renaissance Italy" Renaissance Quarterly 47.3 (Autumn, 1994:485-532) p. 502 note 39.
  11. Perhaps Angera was intended.
  12. Recognition by a birthmark— "the fairy sign-manual" as Nathaniel Hawthorne called it in "The Birthmark"— is a literary trope drawn from universal, sub-literary folktale morphology, given the designation H51.1 in Stith Thompson, Motif-Index of Folk-Literature (Indiana University Press) 1955-58; the birthmark recognition has figured in Romance and marvel literature since Odysseus was recognized by his scar, long before the Hellenistic period; the birthmark-recognition motif can equally be found in Chinese and Mongolian narratives.
  13. The Roman Church did not officially canonize Roch until the seventeenth century. Marie Schmitz-Eichhoff, "St. Rochus: ikonographische und medizinisch-historische Studien", Kölner medizin-historische Beiträge 3 (1977), noted in Christine M. Boeckl, "Giorgio Vasari's 'San Rocco Altarpiece': Tradition and Innovation in Plague Iconography" Artibus et Historiae 22 No. 43 (2001:29-40) p 39 note 13.
  14. Boeckl 2001:35.
  15. Very fully demonstrated by Irene Vaslef, in a dissertation noted by Marshall 1994:502 and note, 503.
  16. The earliest testimony is Roch's appearance in two altarpieces from the Vivarini Venetian workshops in 1464 and 1465. (Marshall 1994:503 note 41, 504 and note 45).
  17. Marshall 1994:505.
  18. "St. Roch"Catholic Encyclopedia.New York:Robert Appleton Co. 1913.
  19. Marshall 1994:503 note 43. Also Peter Burke, "How to be a Counter-Reformation Saint," in Religion and Society in Early Modern Europe,1500-1800, ed. Kaspar von Greyerz (London: Allen & Unwin, 1984), p.47.


External links

an:San Roque ca:Sant Roc cs:Roch z Montpellieru eo:Sankta Roĥo gl:Roque de Montpellier ko:로코 hr:Sveti Rok la:Sanctus Rochus lv:Svētais Rohs lt:Šv. Rokas hu:Szent Rókus ja:ロクス oc:Sant Ròc pt:Roque de Montpellier ksh:St. Rochus ru:Святой Рох sq:Shna Rroku sv:Rochus uk:Святий Рох vec:San Roco