(c. 1350—1380)

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hermit. Born at Montpellier of a rich merchant family, Roch became a hermit and spent much of his life on pilgrimages. One of these was to Rome and included a stay there of three years (1368–71). While he was in Piacenza, he caught the plague and was fed in the woods by a dog, but was also reputed to have miraculously cured sufferers from the plague. One story relates that he returned to Montpellier, where his uncle refused to recognize him, and where he was imprisoned as an impostor. Another tradition, better based, says that he died at Angleria (Lombardy), imprisoned as a suspect spy. Miracles were claimed there at his tomb; his cult as patron of the plague-stricken spread quickly from there to Germany and France. Relics were claimed by Arles and Venice, where Tintoretto adorned his church with a cycle of paintings.

In England his memory is recalled by one Sussex place-name (St Rokeshill) and by screen paintings in Devon and Norfolk. These depict him as a pilgrim with a sore on his leg, accompanied by a dog with a loaf of bread in its mouth.

His cult subsided during the 16th century, but was saved by the papal approval of his office for hermitages and churches dedicated to him. It revived in the 19th century during disastrous outbreaks of cholera. Feast: 16 August.

AA.SS. Aug. III (1737), 380–415; A. Fliche, ‘Le problème de S. Roch’, Anal. Boll., lxviii (1950), 343–61; studies by G. Ceroni (1927) and A. Maurino (1936). H.S.S.C., vii. 219–24.

Subjects: Christianity.

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