Said to have been born with a red cross image across his breast in 1295, St. Roch was born to a noble family at Montpelier, France. Orphaned at age 20, he made a pilgrimage to Rome where he cared for plague victims. Taken ill with the plague, Roch recovered with the aid of a dog who took food from his masters table to feed him. This led to his being named the patron saint of dogs. Roch then performed miracles to help the afflicted.

Returning to Montpelier, Roch was accused of being a spy and imprisoned for five years by an uncle who didn’t recognize him. He never revealed his true status as son of the former governor. The story of the ultimate discovery of his identity varies with some stories saying it was prior and some saying upon his death that his birthmark cross was discerned.

Patron saint of invalids, Roch, known as Roque in Spain and Rocco in Italy, was followed by a popular cult responding to reports of his miracles performed for plague victims. He is the patron against plague, skin diseases and knee problems. He is also the patron saint of dogs and frequently is shown in the company of a dog. His feast day is Aug. 16.