Feast of Saint Rocco

Saint RoccoThe Legend of Saint Rocco (Feast Day: August 16)

A number of sources say that Saint Rocco was born at Montpellier, France, son of the governor there, probably around 1340 A.D. He is said to have been found at birth miraculously marked with a red cross-shaped birthmark on the left side of his chest. As a young child, St. Rocco showed great devotion to God and the Blessed Mother. He was orphaned when he was twenty and left under the care of his uncle, the Duke of Montpellier. Soon after, St. Rocco distributed his wealth among the poor and took a vow of poverty, setting out on a pilgrimage to Rome.

Along the way, he stopped at Aquapendente, which was stricken by the plague, and devoted himself to the plague victims, curing them with prayer and the sign of the cross. He next visited Cesena and other neighboring cities, and then finally Rome. Legend has it that everywhere he visited, the terrible scourge disappeared before his miraculous power. He visited Mantua, Modena, Parma, and other cities, all with the same results.

Statue of St. RoccoAt Piacenza, St. Rocco himself was stricken with the plague, which was evident by an open sore on his leg. He was banished from the city, and took refuge either in a cave or hut in the neighboring forest, sleeping on leaves and drinking water from a small stream. Miraculously, a dog that refused to eat faithfully brought him bread as a means of sustenance. The dog’s owner and Lord of the castle, a gentleman named Gothard, followed his dog into the woods one day and discovered St. Rocco there. The nobleman had pity on him and brought him to his castle, where St. Rocco was cured.

Saint Rocco healing the plague-strickenAfter he recovered, St. Rocco was reputed to have performed many more miracles of healing. He traveled through northern Italy for two or three more years before returning to his birthplace in France. Upon his return to Montpellier, however, he was imprisoned for five years as a spy in pilgrim’s disguise by his own uncle, who was governor and who failed to recognize him (while St. Rocco, for his part, refused to identify himself). According to the legend, on August 16, 1378, a guard entered his cell and found St. Rocco near death. The dungeon was illuminated with a blue light radiating from his body. Upon hearing this, the governor demanded to know St. Rocco’s identity. St. Rocco faintly replied, “I am your nephew, Rocco.” Only one thing could prove that, so the governor had St. Rocco disrobed and the red cross-like mark was visible on the left side of his chest.

Icon of St. RoccoSt. Rocco was accordingly given a public funeral, and numerous miracles attested his sanctity even after his death. For example, in 1414, during the Council of Constance, the plague having broken out in that city, the Fathers of the Council ordered public prayers and processions in honor of the saint, and immediately the plague ceased. Later, around 1485, his relics were purportedly carried furtively to Venice, where they are still venerated.

Saint Rocco is venerated in the Roman Catholic Church as the protector against the plague and all contagious diseases. The statue of St. Rocco is considered unique among theologians because of his pose. It is most unusual because it depicts him with his left hand pointing to an open sore on his left leg. Few images of saints expose any afflictions or handicaps. His body is enclosed in a glass tomb in the church of St. Rocco in Venice, Italy. St. Rocco is remembered on August 16th of each year.

More artistic interpretations of St. Rocco:
St. Rocco St. Rocco St. Rocco

St. Rocco with the Blessed Mother and Child

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