Untrustworthy sources say he was probably born at Montpellier, France, son of the governor there. He was orphaned when he was twenty. He went on pilgrimage to Rome and devoted himself to caring for the victims of a plague that was ravaging Italy. He became a victim himself at Piacenza but recovered and was reputed to have performed many miracles of healing.
On his return to Montpellier, he was imprisoned for five years as a spy in pilgrim's disguise when his uncle, who was governor, ordered him imprisoned (His uncle failed to recognize him, and Roch failed to identify himself.) Roch died in prison and was only then identified as the former governor's son by a birthmark in the form of a cross on his chest. Another biographer says that he was arrested as a spy at Angers, Lombardi, and died in prison there.
When miracles were reported at his intercession after his death, a popular cult developed and he is invoked against pestilence and plague. He is also the patron of invalids. He is known as Rocco in Italy and Roque in Spain. His feast day is August 16th.
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By Jennifer Hartline
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