Sunday, August 10, 2014

San Roque

August is a month of festivals.  Practically every pueblo has a festival this month.  And one of the most poplar is San Roque.

Cambados, igrexa de San Francisco

San Roque, or St. Roch, was a 14th century Christian Saint, born in Montpellier the son of a nobleman.  After the death of his parents, he distributed all his possessions and set out on a mendicant pilgrimage to Rome.  Italy was suffering an epidemic of plague at the time and Roque performed many miraculous cures by touch and the sign of the cross while tending the sick at various hospitals.  When he himself fell ill, he was run out of town to build himself a hermit´s hut in the forest where a spring miraculously arose.  He was saved from starvation by the dog of a local nobleman who brought him bread.  The nobleman, Count Gothard, became an acolyte.

And then, to top all ths off,
On his return incognito to Montpellier he was arrested as a spy (by orders of his own uncle) and thrown into prison, where he languished five years and died on 16 August 1327, without revealing his name, to avoid worldly glory. (Evidence suggests, as mentioned earlier, that the previous events occurred, instead at Voghera in the 1370s.) After his death, according to Legenda Aurea,
"anon an angel brought from heaven a table divinely written with letters of gold into the prison, which he laid under the head of S. Rocke. And in that table was written that God had granted to him his prayer, that is to wit, that who that calleth meekly to S. Rocke he shall not be hurt with any hurt of pestilence."
With all the recent talk about Ebola, a patron saint against pestilence seems timely.

In Galicia there are August 16th festivals to San Roque in:  Vilagarcía, Vigo, Santiago de Compostela, Viveiro, Ribadeo, Cervo, Meira, Rábade, Sada, A Laracha, Cee, Melide, Celanova, Ourense, O Barco, Castrelo de Miño, Forzáns (Ponte Caldelas) y Caldas de Reis, and Betanzos, amongst others.  Vigo is a big one,
Every year, thousands of devotees gather in the vicinity of the Praza de España, in the neighbourhood of San Roque, to keep the largest pilgrimage in Vigo alive. Votive offerings are the most typical part of this celebration: the custom is to buy wax reproduction of diseased body parts to ask San Roque for a cure. The saint’s devotees guarantee that the 'holy milagreiro' is able to heal all ailments.
Melide has a medieval market.  Maybe next year.

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