St. Roch (or St Rocco or St Roque) is the patron saint against the plague as well as dogs, invalids, of falsely accused people, and bachelors. Living in the 1300’s as nobility, his life is recounted in the infamous Golden Legend. Born with a red cross on his chest that grew as he grew, he was believed to be set apart for God since birth. Upon the death of both his parents when he was in his 20’s, Roch gave away all his wealth and became a Third Order Franciscan and was a wandering pilgrim, slowly making his way to Rome.
Upon his arrival, Rome was in the midst of the plague. Moved with compassion, he began ministering to the sick with no regard for his safety. Countless miracles are recounted during this time of healings from the deadly disease, in Rome and in every city he visited after. Eventually Roch himself contracted the plague and withdrew to the forest to die.
However, a hunting dog, guided by his guardian angel, brought him bread and, licking his wounds, healed him. The count who owned the dog eventually followed it and found Roch. He brought him to his house to regain his strength.
After this ordeal, Roch decided to return to his home town, but incognito as his father had appointed him governor of the town, and Roch did not want the acclaim and wealth. He sought nothing more than to be a poor pilgrim, a Franciscan in all things.
However his uncle, in suspicion of this traveler, thought Roch to be a spy, and threw him in the prison. A single word could have saved Roch from this torment, but he refrained and spent the next five years until his death in prison. Upon his burial, the townspeople recognized his cross-shaped birthmark and acclaimed him a Saint, and for the many miracles occurring at his grave, erected a church in his honor.
In this depiction, painted as a comission by a Fr. Roque, Roch can see his guardian angel who gestures towards Heaven as the source of the healing and at the hunting dog, instructing it to give the bread and lick the wounds.
Roch commonly exposes his leg, miraculously healed from the sores that afflicted it. He rests his hand on his heart in awe and gratitude at the power of God. Clothed in the browns and oranges of a pilgrim, he conceals the bright blue of France and his nobility.
The helical composition draws your eye up the healed leg of St. Roch and from his eyes to the shining brightness of the angel and up to Heaven.
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