Saint Roch or Rocco (lived c. 1348 – 15/16 August 1376/79 (traditionally c. 1295 – 16 August 1327) was a Catholic saint, a confessor whose death is commemorated on 16 August and 9 September in Italy; he is specially invoked against the plague. He may also be called Rock in English, and has the designation of St Rollox in Glasgow, Scotland, said to be a corruption of St Roch's Loch, which referred to a small loch once near a chapel dedicated to St. Roch in 1506.

He is a patron saint of dogs, invalids, of falsely accused people, bachelors, and several other things. He is the patron saint of Dolo (near Venice) and Parma. He's also the patron of Casamassima, Cisterna di Latina and Palagiano, Italy.

Saint Roch is known as "São Roque" in Portuguese and as "San Roque" in Spanish, including in many now-English-speaking areas, such as the Philippines.

Traditional biography

According to his Acta and his vita in the Golden Legend, he was born at Montpellier, at that time "upon the border of France," as the Golden Legend has it, 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."

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. 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, 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 the Golden Legend he preserved the "cardinal of Angleria in Lombardy" 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 for 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 the 1370s.)

After his death, according to the Golden Legend;

The townspeople recognized him as well by his birthmark; he was soon canonized in the popular mind, 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. 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.

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.

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