Sunday 16 August 2020

acta et vita

Another champion of our canine friends albeit with a wider patronage portfolio, Saint Roch (Rocco, Rochus, Rock, (*1295 – †1397) is venerated on this day with a truly global cult of devotees with namesake churches all over the world, canonised by popular demand fervour. His iconography tells his story: son of the mayor of Montpellier, he divested himself of worldly possession for the life of a mendicant pilgrim and undertook the journey to Rome on foot, and arriving in Italy during an outbreak of the plague, Roch carried for the sick and aided in the miraculous recuperation of many, encouraging the establishment of hospitals for the poor.
Finally catching the disease himself, Roch went into self-isolation and built himself hut in the woods. Apparently not very skilled at roughing it, Roch would have died from starvation had not a dog delivered him a loaf of bread and charitably licked his sores until they healed. The dog was subsequently reunited with his human, one Count Gothard, who became Roch’s first follower. Upon his return to his hometown, not revealing his identity or kinship, Roch’s uncle—now governor of the Savoy outpost—treated him with suspicion and had him arrested on charges of espionage. Roch still remained silent and was executed—though afterwards, the towns people recognised him by his birthmark (or plague pock) on his thigh, appearing as an apparition and performing miracles thereafter. Roch’s extensive benefaction includes bachelors, tile-makers, apothecaries, second-hand dealers and the falsely accused and is invoked against knee problems as well as the plague.