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City Tour Explains Saint’s Frequent Depiction with Man’s Best Friend


By Cheryl Young

Before the tenth century, patron saints were chosen through public acclaim. In the Middle Ages, few were more popular than St Roch, (St Roque in Spanish).

The cult of St Roque started in northern Italy and quickly spread throughout Europe, continuing even until the nineteenth century. Legend has it that he was born to a wealthy, possibly noble family in Montpellier in the Languedoc and was so devout that, when his parents died, the young man gave away all his personal possessions and estates to live a life of penance, poverty, and prayer.

Actually, those “personal” details are truly just generic descriptions used for the lives of many saints. The purpose of these saint biographies, called hagiographies was more to provide religious instruction and example than historical accuracy.

Nevertheless, St Roque became extremely popular, probably because he could be invoked for protection against the plague. For at least a millennia, flu-like illnesses that would now seem mild, requiring just a pill and bed rest, could be fatal. Not to mention that in the fourteenth century, the bubonic plague, known as the Black Death, was a real danger. Historians calculate that 20 million people, a third of the European population, died in just seven years from 1346 to 1353 from the Black Death.

When St Roque was ministering to the poor and sick in Italy, he himself fell ill. It is a matter of debate whether he was exiled to the forest to die or did the noble thing and went by choice. Legend says he remained alone except for a devoted dog that brought him his daily bread. One day, a local nobleman followed this dog and discovered St Roque, still alive and apparently cured.

When depicted in statues, as he appears in our very own Parroquia, St. Roque appears as a healthy and robust man, accompanied by a dog with a loaf of bread in its mouth. His hand gestures to a wound on his left thigh. This saint was a powerful symbol of hope for medieval petitioners desperate to protect their community and family from the ravages of merciless contagions. More recently, with modern medicine reducing the threat of contagious diseases, St Roque has become the patron saint of dogs. European cities have St Roque-related prizes for the dogs that have demonstrated the most devotion to their master.

Learn more by taking the Patronato pro Niños (PPN) Four Churches Walking Tour on Thursday, May 23. All donations and tips go to support this nonprofit organization’s important work. For 49 years, PPN has provided medical and dental services to children in San Miguel whose families cannot afford it. In 2018, PPN served 7,636 children, more than 600 per month!

All walks are conducted in English. Private tours can be arranged. Contact Christina 415 152 7796 or at to schedule one.



The Four Churches Historical Walk from Patronato Pro Niños

Thu, May 23, 10am–12:30pm

Gather in the Jardin, across from the Parroquia 9:45am

No reservations needed

350 pesos per person

Donation taken onsite


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