Over the years you come to know more about the area you live in, but sometimes it is a guest that tells you something you weren’t aware of. When, earlier this week, I saw the announcement of the annual Feria of San Roque in the village it reminded me of the story told to me by one of them, Rietje. After a short stroll (small town) through Alcalá she was sitting on a bench next to church, together with what turned out to be an interesting Spaniard….. Apart of the chat was about San Roque the patron of the church, which see then later on conveyed to me.
San Roque (saint Roch) is, among many other saints, whose actual history is crowded with legend and therefore it is almost impossible to deduce whether legend is historically accurate or completely off base. However, San Roque was historically a French noble. Legend claims that he was marked from birth by a red cross on his chest which grew as he did.
Clearly San Roque began his holy life at a very young age. Unfortunately both his parents died by the time he was twenty and therefore he sold all of his possessions and traveled to Rome where he cared for plague victims in Italy. He was known for miraculous cures either by touch or the Sign of the Cross. Eventually he contracted the plague himself and therefore ran off to the woods to die.
San Roque was surprised by Count Gothard’s hunting dog which brought him food and licked his wounds which began to heal. (On most paintings and sculptress of the saint, you will see him with a dog and he became the patron saint of dogs) Furthermore, a spring arose out of the ground where he lay which gave him a constant supply of clean water, certainly a rarity in Rome at the time. After returning to health, he ventured back to his home in Montpellier where he was accused of being a spy and was imprisoned by his uncle who failed to recognize him. He then lived in prison for 5 years with an angel caring for him until he died in 1327.
After his death, miracles taking place by his intercession became increasingly more popular which resulted in a cult becoming developed around him. The Church of San Rocco was built in Venice, Italy quickly after his death and today holds many of his relics. Intercession to San Roque increased ten-fold after the Fathers of the Council of Constance of 1414 ordered public prayers and processions for the saint which immediately ended a plague in Constance. San Roque’s feast day is August 16th and typically involves a procession of a San Roque statue.
As mentioned He is a patron saint of dogs, falsely accused people, bachelors and several other things amongst which our Town Alcalá del Valle. I wonder however how many local know this story.
Learned something again, thanks for sharing Rietje (a big dog lover herself).