Feast Day 16 August. Patron Saint of Alaró and Porreres
Died 1327 AD
St Roch was born in Montpelier circa 1295 where his father was governor.
He was said to be born with a red cross on his breast. In his twenties,
following the loss of his parents, he distributed his fortune to the poor,
and the governorship of Montpelier to his uncle. Arriving in Italy, he
visited Aquapendente, stricken by the plague, where he devoted himself
to curing its victims by making the sign of the Cross. Wherever he went,
the plague was no match for his miraculous power. In Rome, Cardinal Anglic,
the pope’s brother was one of those he healed. At Piacenza he succumbed to
the plague himself.
He walked into the forest to die but was befriended by a dog who fed him
with food stolen from his master’s table. On his recovery, and on returning
to Montpelier, he was arrested as a spy and imprisoned (on the orders of his
uncle, it is said) when he refused to reveal his noble identity. Cared for by
an angel, he died there five years later in 1327. Only then did the red cross
on his breast and a document found in his possession serve to identify him.
He is generally depicted as a pilgrim with a staff, and a dog, either displaying
a leg with a plague spot or with the dog licking the spot. Patron saint of dogs,
pestilence and, rather oddly, tile makers.
It was once the belief that on 16th August St Roch’s dog would rid the town of
rabid animals. The townsfolk left bread in the streets for the dog. Indeed it
is said that there were people who left it offerings and presents, venerating
the dog more than the saint himself! It was also the only day when dogs were
allowed in the church, as there was a belief that the devil was partial to
taking shape on earth as a dog and they were barred the rest of the year.