The Legend of Saint Rocco (Feast Day: August
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.
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 dogs 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.
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 pilgrims 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. Roccos 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.
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: